(New York, NY) – After a string of racist incidents at Syracuse University this month – including racist graffiti and the use of ethnic slurs – the school’s chancellor has preliminarily agreed to some student demands for reforms to address concerns about racism, and to more robustly support a range of diversity and inclusion efforts. PEN America supports these efforts and urges the university to do everything possible to address students’ concerns.

“When hate is unleashed on campus, it is vital that university administrators respond swiftly and seriously, to ensure that all community members understand where the institution stands,” said Jonathan Friedman, project director for campus free speech at PEN America. “In this case, we are glad to see that after some initial delay, the university is now taking students’ concerns seriously, to make clear that racism or hate directed against any group on campus is not tolerated and is reprehensible to the campus community as a whole. Pledging publicly to take concrete steps to combat racism, and to support students from historically marginalized backgrounds with resources rather than just rhetoric, are steps in the right direction.

“As the fallout from these incidents continues, we hope university leaders will continue to set up channels to listen to and address students’ concerns about hateful speech, and that they will seek solutions that address students’ legitimate concerns and also protect the space for open discourse on campus.”

PEN America this fall published the Campus Guide to Free Speech, a comprehensive digital resource for students, faculty, and administrators. The organization’s campus free speech project offers regular guidance to hundreds of university stakeholders in protecting free expression while also encouraging inclusion.


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: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892