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[VIRTUAL] The Common Room: Campus Demonstrations and COVID-19

Seats in a lounge with pink overlay as backdrop; on top: “The Common Room: A weekly forum on free speech and inclusion on campus. Campus Demonstrations and COVID-19”

An online event hosted by PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Program.

Against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the 2020 election, campuses have found themselves at the center of controversies pitting protections for expression, protest, and assembly against the need to safeguard public health. The issue touches students, faculty, staff, and administrators—many of whom may view these tensions and trade-offs differently. Both sets of concerns are of course important to colleges and universities, given their unique stature in society. How can their leaders and personnel strike the right balance? How can they negotiate these challenges?


Join Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s campus free speech program, for an interactive forum to discuss this issue. Friedman will be joined by special guest Neal Hutchens, professor and chair in the Department of Higher Education at the University of Mississippi School of Education.

The Common Room is a weekly series for faculty, administrators, staff, and students to explore issues at the intersection of free speech, academic freedom, diversity, and inclusion in higher education. PEN America Members, supporters, and friends, including the general public, are invited to attend.


Jonathan Friedman headshotJonathan Friedman is the program director for campus free speech at PEN America, where he oversees PEN America’s advocacy, analysis, and outreach in the national debate around free speech and inclusion in higher education. He served as lead author on PEN America’s 2019 report, Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America, and on the production of its digital Campus Free Speech Guide. Friedman holds a PhD in international education from New York University, and he has previously received awards for his teaching, research, and leadership.

Special Guest

Neal Hutchens headshotNeal Hutchens is professor and chair in the University of Mississippi School of Education’s Department of Higher Education. He earned his Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Maryland and his J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law, where he graduated summa cum laude. His research focuses on legal issues in higher education, with a key strand of his scholarship centered on free speech and academic freedom issues. Hutchens was the 2015 recipient of the William A. Kaplin Award from the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law. Among his publications, he is on the author team for the sixth edition of The Law of Higher Education, a leading treatise on higher education law. He is also one of the co-authors of The Contested Campus: Aligning Professional Values, Social Justice, and Free Speech, which was published by NASPA in 2020.