(NEW YORK)—University of Florida leaders announced Monday that they would begin enforcing a decades-old rule banning protests inside campus buildings. This decision comes on the heels of a disruptive protest against the likely appointment of Sen. Ben Sasse as University president, and in advance of a planned Board of Trustees meeting with Sasse. Sasse’s candidacy has come under scrutiny, as a new Florida law shrouds the search for public officials in secrecy, a move that transparency and faculty advocates say could favor political appointments over quality candidates. In response, Jonathan Friedman, PEN America’s director of Free Expression and Education programs, made the comments below:

“Enforcing a blanket ban on indoor protests, even in the wake of a particularly raucous one, is nothing short of banning freedom of expression itself. Not all protests are alike, and to treat them with a uniform policy like this is not just a form of collective punishment, but a prior restraint on those who wish to dissent. Of course, we hope that protesters will not shut down, shout down, or obstruct speech, but argument and protest have their place on campuses, even when they grow heated. That this policy has been on the books for decades does not make it appropriate or reasonable, and it is especially worrisome for the University to enforce it selectively now in response to these calls for greater transparency and public input. The decision only exacerbates current state government efforts to censor voices on Florida campuses, contributing to a chilling climate for students and faculty.”

About PEN America

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. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057