(NEW YORK)— The investigation and censuring of Professor Joy Alonzo at Texas A&M University— seemingly at the request of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick— was “blatantly inappropriate” and shows how precarious academic freedom is becoming in Texas, PEN America said today.

Following a March lecture at the University of Texas Medical Branch during which she criticized Patrick, Alonzo was placed on leave. Chancellor John Sharp, the head of the Texas A&M system, communicated directly with Patrick’s office and suggested in a text to Patrick that Alonzo would be fired by the end of the week.

Alonzo was formally censured but an investigation cleared her of any wrongdoing.

Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager in PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program, said: “This blatantly inappropriate investigation is a frightening example of how precarious academic freedom is becoming on Texas campuses. For Alonzo to be investigated and censured, seemingly at the request of the lieutenant governor, is a frightening encroachment on her academic freedom that sends a chilling effect across all of higher education in the state. This is worsened by the fact that it is unclear what exactly it is that Alonzo said to cause such offense, leaving professors to self-censor lest they offend someone in a position of political power. This debacle is deeply at odds with the fundamental protections that must exist for the exchange of ideas at colleges and universities, so that they can remain spaces of dialogue and debate vital for our democracy.”

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. To learn more visit PEN.org

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