Jonathan Friedman

Jonathan Friedman headshot

Jonathan Friedman, Ph.D., is the Sy Syms managing director of U.S. free expression and education programs at PEN America. He oversees research, advocacy, and education related to academic freedom, educational gag orders, book bans, and general free expression in schools, colleges, and universities. 

An interdisciplinary scholar by training, Friedman has served as lead author on PEN America’s reports, Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools (2022), Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights (2022), Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn, and Teach (2021), and Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America (2020). He also steered the production of PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Guide (2020). He regularly provides commentary for news media about educational censorship, and has published op-eds for CNN, The Washington Post, The Hill, The Daily Beast, New York Daily News, and Inside Higher Ed.  

In this role, Friedman also drives forward PEN America’s efforts to catalyze a more informed, civic culture among the rising generation, on college campuses, and among the general public. He oversees PEN America’s Free Expression Advocacy Institutes for youth, as well as its centenary event series, Flashpoints: Free Speech in American History, Culture & Society. He has facilitated workshops and conducted advisory meetings with senior leaders, faculty, and administrators at dozens of colleges and universities across the country, and for numerous higher education organizations and professional academic associations. 

Friedman has published sociological research on universities, nationalism, and globalization, and taught courses at New York University (NYU), Columbia University, and Bard College’s Open Society University Network. Formerly, he was part of a research team examining the production of knowledge on world regions at the Social Science Research Council, and served as administrative director of the Multinational Institute of American Studies, an exchange program for international scholars based at NYU. Friedman holds an MA and Ph.D. in international education from NYU, and has received awards for his teaching, research, and leadership. He was a 2019-2020 fellow of the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.