October 18, 2016

“And Campus for All”: PEN America’s new report on free speech on college campuses


PEN_American_Center_Official_LogoOn Monday, PEN America released And Campus for All, an extensive report on the state of free speech at American universities, based on three case studies: the controversy over offensive Halloween costumes at Yale, activism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at UCLA, and the implications of Title IX at Northwestern.

As Jennifer Schuessler reports for the New York Times, this is somewhat new territory for PEN, which generally focuses on protecting writers around the word from censorship, political persecution, and imprisonment.

But the goal of the report is consistent with PEN’s broader mission “to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide.” PEN America’s works centers on freedom of speech and a profound commitment to open intellectual inquiry. The hope here, the report’s introduction states, is to “reconcile the imperative of creating inclusive, equal societies in which all voices can be heard with the bedrock principle of protecting free speech.”

The complete report is available for free here, as is a document of “PEN America Principles on Campus Speech,” through which the organization hopes to offer “a way to address some of the most polarizing campus unrest in decades over issues such as sexist speech, racial epithets, controversial campus speakers, trigger warnings, and so-called ‘safe spaces’ and ‘microaggressions.’”



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.