PEN America issued the following statement on Friday in response to a decision by the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN to ban a conservative speaker reportedly due to his views on transgender issues: 

(NEW YORK)– Jonathan Friedman, director of the Free Expression and Education program, stated: “The decision by the University of St. Thomas to ban Michael Knowles from campus is unfortunate and wrongheaded. Bans and prohibitions on speakers are toxic policies for educational institutions, even in situations where the invited speaker has previously made patently offensive statements. Such policies send an alarming message to students that words, concepts, or ideas can and should be barred, and that even when proper democratic processes have been followed to invite a speaker, institutional authorities can override them on whatever basis they choose. And such bans are in direct contravention to academic commitments to teaching, research, and open inquiry. The University of St. Thomas should rescind this prohibition and allow Knowles’ invited talk to go forward.”

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

Contact: Suzanne Trimel,, 201-247-5057