Colleges and universities play an essential role in sustaining our democracy. They serve as crucibles of ideas, dialogue, and debate, committed to the pursuit of truth and knowledge. But as political discourse has become increasingly polarized in the United States, colleges and universities have run up against tensions between the bedrock values of free speech and inclusion. Concerns centering on the use of language, historical legacies of discrimination, and the space for divergent ideas have roiled campuses across the country and shined a spotlight on fundamental questions regarding the role and purpose of free expression in American society. PEN America has been at the forefront of these issues, working to reconcile the tensions between free speech and inclusion to ensure equal access to the intellectual life of the campus and to sustain the spirit of open inquiry core to the academic mission.

For media inquiries, please contact Stephen Fee at [email protected] or +1 646.779.4830

Research and Resources


Program Staff

Jonathan Friedman

Jonathan Friedman
Program Director,
Campus Free Speech

Nicholas Perez

Nicholas Perez
Program Coordinator,
Campus Free Speech




Pride and Protest: Free Expression and LGBTQIA+ Student Activism in 2020
Wednesday, June 30, 2020

Free Speech and Black Lives on Campus
Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Counter-Speech: Speaking Out to Fight Hate
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Anti-Asian Racism and COVID 19: A Teach-In
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Freedom to Write Index: Tracking Jailed Writers and Public Intellectuals
Thursday, May 21, 2020

What Higher Education Needs to Know About Disinformation and COVID 19
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

First Amendment Disrupted? The State of Freedom of Expression of the U.S.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Public Health: Emerging Tensions and Technologies during COVID-19
Thursday, April 30, 2020

Free Press on Campus and COVID-19: A Leadership Roundtable with Student Journalists
Friday, April 24, 2020

Hate, Xenophobia, and COVID-19: How Should Higher Ed Respond?
Wednesday, April 15, 2020

What Professors Need to Know About Online Hate and Harassment
Tuesday, April 7, 2020


Opinions and Commentary

Expert Testimony

“Examining First Amendment Rights on Campus”
House Committee on Education and the Workforce, September 26, 2018

“Examining Anti-Semitism on College Campuses”
House Committee on the Judiciary, November 7, 2017


“When Diversity and Inclusion Clash with Free Speech—and Why they Don’t Have To”
Higher Ed Connects, February 15, 2020

“Room for All Voices”
Talking Stick: The Authoritative Source for Campus Housing Vol. 37 No. 3, January 2020–February 2020

“There’s been a talk about campus free speech problems. It’s time to focus on solutions”
Teaching Heterodoxy, November 5, 2019

“A Response to Aaron Freedman”
The American Prospect, June 29, 2019

“Alabama and Texas are putting free speech at colleges in jeopardy”
The Washington Post, June 20, 2019

“Balancing Free Speech and Inclusion: Four Simple Strategies for Campus Leaders”
Higher Ed Connects, May 15, 2019

“Why Trump’s campus speech order is a big risk”
CNN, March 18, 2019

“When Hate Speech and Free Speech Collide”
Diverse Issues in Higher Education, December 5, 2018

“Enforced silence is just as dangerous as any offensive rhetoric”
The Washington Post, November 16, 2018

“What Trump administration gets very wrong about free speech”
CNN, August 7, 2018

“You can only protect campus speech if you acknowledge racism”
The Washington Post, May 25, 2018