(New York)–Students at Georgia Southern University who burned an author’s book engaged in a disturbing practice that emblemizes hostility toward free expression, PEN America said in a statement today. 

On Wednesday night, Jennine Capó Crucet, a novelist and associate professor at the University of Nebraska, delivered a lecture at the university about her novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, which is about a young Latina woman struggling to navigate the predominantly white atmosphere of her university. The book had been used as required reading in some first-year seminars. During the Q&A portion, some students objected to Crucet’s invocation of the concept of white privilege and to what they felt were unfair generalizations about white people. That night, a video was posted on Twitter showing a group of students burning Crucet’s book. 

“It is deeply disturbing to see a group of students engaged in this kind of conduct,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of the campus free speech project at PEN America.  “Book burning has a long history as a tactic to intimidate, silence, and denigrate the value of intellectual exchange. Students have the right to exercise their own freedom of expression and book burning is also a protected act of expression. But this symbolic gesture aimed not just to reject or refute ideas but to obliterate the very paper on which they were written. 

“While Georgia Southern has stated that this act does not align with the institution’s values, it should go further in condemning this act for the intolerance it represents. It behooves the university to educate its students about why book burning is so inimical to open discourse and free expression.”  


PEN America has examined the importance of free expression, academic freedom, and open inquiry on college campuses in our 2019 report, Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America, and has recently released a new Campus Free Speech Guide that offers practical guidance to students, faculty, and administrators on how to confront speech related controversies on campus, including those pertaining to hateful expression and invited speakers.


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.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, media consultant, [email protected]