NEW YORK—In response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s speech at Georgetown University, PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel released the following statement: 

“We take issue with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his cursory acknowledgment of serious concerns that have arisen on campus with respect to incidents of hate speech and hate crimes. In an environment where the White House and administration have repeatedly failed to convincingly denounce hateful rhetoric and gestures, some Americans understandably fear that menacing speech is spreading untrammeled, and can morph into dangerous action. We agree with Jeff Sessions that the defense of free speech rights on campus must be uncompromising, and that neither the heckler’s veto nor considerations of political correctness should be allowed to silence controversial speech. We also share the concern that, in some instances, free speech rights have been sidelined in favor of other values and priorities. But we note that calls to silence free speech on campus in recent months have derived from both the left and the right and regret that the Attorney General confined his examples to left-leaning groups protesting voices considered more conservative. As the Justice Department wades into issues of campus speech we hope its defense of free expression on campus will encompass not only opposition to infringements on free speech, but also the imperative to ensure that U.S. university campuses are truly open to the speech of all students, regardless of political leanings, LGBT status and racial, ethnic, or religious background.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT
Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: agasparian@pen.org, +1.646.981.0685