NEW YORK—In response to the voluntary cancellation of “Free Speech Week” events at UC Berkeley by organizers, PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel released the following statement: 

“News of the voluntary cancellation by organizers of most of the events associated with what was dubbed “Free Speech Week” at the University of California at Berkeley represents no setback for free speech. From the start, the groups behind this planned conclave made clear their intent to showcase only a particular set of views, aimed to provoke outrage and bait those who might call for their expression to be shut down. In a climate where confrontations and violence had previously broken out, Berkeley officials were dogged in making plans and taking precautions to enable the events to go forward, including willingness to bear an estimated million dollars in expense. Repeated changes to the program and lack of confirmation of events called the organizers’ seriousness into question, as did their reluctance to comply with reasonable requests for information and cooperation by the campus charged with ensuring the safety of speakers and participants. Ben Shapiro’s recent appearance at Berkeley was hopeful evidence that reasoned dialogue between sharply opposing views is possible, but it demands that the parties involved operate in good faith, with the intent of exchanging ideas rather than barbs in the media or physical blows. Going forward we call on all parties to reflect a constructive spirit aimed to create a campus that is truly open to all people and all ideas.”

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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