(New York, NY) – Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, asked college students yesterday on Twitter to record and share videos of their professors’ online instruction to “document and expose” so-called “blatant indoctrination” and “radicalism that has been infecting our schools.” Jonathan Friedman, director of the campus free speech program at PEN America, responded with the following:

“This is shockingly wrongheaded. While professors are struggling to facilitate meaningful learning experiences for their students, Kirk is encouraging ‘gotcha’ videos to report on them. This would be censorious even in ordinary circumstances, but the ongoing global health crisis makes this tweet particularly misguided. As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, students and faculty–across the political spectrum–will need to come together to find solutions, and online classrooms should continue to prepare students to engage with difficult questions in productive ways. That means keeping classrooms open to constructive dialogue, not shaming professors into self-censorship from fear of negative public attention. Free speech advocates should be considering how to contribute productively to this moment, rather than pitting students against faculty in ways that threaten to undermine the trust necessary for effective academic exchange.”


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.

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