(NEW YORK)— PEN America today condemned the secret recording of Professor Larry Chavis at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and his later dismissal based on what the scholar believes were comments he made in the classroom in support of indigenous and LGBTQ+ rights.

“This case is positively Orwellian,” said Jonathan Friedman, Sy Sims director of U.S. Free Expression Programs at PEN America, “There has been no transparency whatsoever. It is particularly appalling to think that UNC did not renew Chavis’s teaching contract based on those recordings, or because of his support of Indigenous and LGBTQ+ rights, as he fears. This is an alarming violation of due process and academic freedom. Chavis deserves an explanation — and the university owes one to the public.”

The university did not renew the economics professor’s contract after he was secretly recorded in the classroom this spring. Chavis was told about the recordings only after they occurred, and was told that they were part of a professional review prompted by “reports concerning class content and conduct.” Chavis told journalists that he is concerned that the review may have been prompted by his vocal support of indigenous and LGBTQ+ rights.

Efforts by state governments and political bodies to suppress academic freedom are among PEN America’s concerns related to the freedom to learn and free speech on campuses. Since 2021, we have tracked a mounting and aggressive campaign of authoritarian-like decisions targeting public educational institutions, reflected in book bans, educational gag orders, and efforts to defund and prohibit diversity, equity and inclusion offices and trainings.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free 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