NEW YORK)— PEN America today called it “nothing short of a tragedy” that a popular academic blog at the University of Iowa was shut down after criticism from lawmakers, saying the action was “profoundly alarming” and “puts democracy at risk.”

Chris Jones, a research engineer, chose to retire and shut down his popular blog after the University allegedly insinuated that funding was put at risk by state legislators if the blog were allowed to continue.

Jones has published blog posts about environmental issues for several years and has received accolades for making science writing accessible to the public, but his writings appear to have run afoul of some Iowa Republican lawmakers.

In response, PEN America’s senior manager of free expression and education Kristen Shahverdian, released the following statement:

“It is nothing short of a tragedy that Jones’ blog has been shut down for political reasons. The contents of Jones’ blog fall well within the bounds of academic freedom, and it is profoundly alarming that the university would allow legislators to pressure them to shut it down in this manner. It is especially distressing that legislators feel it appropriate to do so in the first place. This is part and parcel of other legislative attacks on the autonomy of higher education that PEN America has documented across the country. Dangling funding in front of universities to force them to comply with the ideological whims of lawmakers threatens the free pursuit of knowledge that our universities make possible, and it puts our very democracy at risk. While we understand Jones’ choice to retire and leave the blog behind, we are deeply disappointed that he was put in the position to make that decision in the first place.”

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. To learn more visit 

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