NEW YORK—In response to this evening’s talk by Ben Shapiro at UC Berkeley, PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel released the following statement: 

“Free speech movement leader Mario Savio would have been proud of his alma mater tonight. UC Berkeley wins great credit for enabling conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to speak, allowing boisterous protests, and ensuring campus safety. College Republicans, Berkeley police, and protest organizers showed foresight and restraint, allowing speech and counter-speech to be heard. Whether or not you agree with a word Shapiro said, the airing of his ideas let them be tested and challenged. The diverse views voiced in the Q&A afterward offered potent evidence that rich discussion between deeply opposing views is both possible and productive. While we regret that threats of violence shadowed preparations for the event, we hope the discussion in the room sets a precedent for other campuses in how to facilitate speech, uphold the First Amendment, and sustain an open marketplace for ideas not when it’s easy to do so, but when it’s hard. We further hope the tone of respect that predominated inside the lecture hall holds on the streets afterward as well.”


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.

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator:, +1.646.981.0685