(WASHINGTON) — Today, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel testified before the House Committee on Education & the Workforce’s hearing, “Diversity of Thought: Protecting Free Speech on College Campuses.”

Nossel testified that protecting free speech on college campuses is essential to preserving the academic freedom and institutional autonomy necessary for universities to continue to serve as incubators of democratic citizenship.

“Students often lack awareness of the First Amendment or the precepts of academic freedom, sometimes believing that the best answer to noxious ideas is to drown them out, or to call on university authorities to shut them down,” Nossel said in her opening statement. “At PEN America we argue that the essential drive to render American campuses more diverse, equitable, and inclusive need not – and must not – come at the expense of robust, uncompromising protections for free speech and academic freedom.”

In response to Ranking Member Robert Scott’s (VA-03) question regarding enacted laws restricting what can be taught in schools, Nossel stated:

“A principle is not a principle if it is not applied to all equally. To cherry pick certain ideas, certain course materials, certain theories and say, ‘these are out of bounds,’ that’s the core of what the First Amendment protects against – viewpoint-based discrimination, the notion that the government would be listing out particular topics, subjects of discussion, aspects of curriculum, and saying they are out of bounds.

Read Nossel’s full remarks here and watch the full hearing video here.

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 pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057