Many organizations have tackled speech-related concerns on campus. Listed below are resources from campuses, think tanks, and nonprofit organizations representing a range of perspectives on these issues. PEN America encourages members of campus communities to explore these additional resources.
American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
Founded in 1915, the AAUP is a nonprofit association of faculty and academic professionals that works to develop standards and procedures to help maintain quality and academic freedom in U.S. higher education. It advocates shared governance at colleges and universities and frequently publishes useful guidelines, statements, and articles.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The ACLU has been operating for nearly 100 years, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights and liberties of everyone in the country. It has over 4 million members and supporters, and its 50-state network of staffed affiliate offices have filed so many cases in state and federal courts that it has appeared before the Supreme Court more than any organization except the Department of Justice. The ACLU website dedicates a number of pages specifically to free speech on university campuses. The site includes a comprehensive outline of the history and law underlying free speech on college campuses, answers to frequently asked questions, links to major court decisions on the First Amendment, consolidated legal information about protest and assembly, and “Know Your Rights” resources for students and protesters. Additionally, some state chapters provide legal representation. Check your local affiliate for more information.
American Council on Education (ACE)
A membership organization for university leaders across the United States, ACE works to mobilize the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practices. It publishes research on issues of inclusion, free speech, and how the two can be reconciled and deployed to support administrators and campus leaders.
Two notable reports:
- “Campus Inclusion and Freedom of Expression: Controversial Speakers” considers clashes over invited speakers, arguing that the values of free speech and diversity should be mutually reinforcing rather than in conflict. The report contains survey data from universities throughout the country, case studies, and strategies for campus leaders to foster understanding and guide conversations.
- “Speaking Truth and Acting With Integrity: Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate” focuses on race relations, spotlighting the conduct of the University of Missouri at Columbia and the University of Missouri system before, during, and after a roiling racial crisis during the 2015–16 school year. Primarily a case study, the report includes detailed analysis of the university’s actions and lessons and insights to help other schools facing racial tensions.
Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization comprised of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and state university systems. The APLU lists statements and activities of University leaders addressing the complex issues balancing inclusiveness and free speech. Statements, letters to community, creation of new policies and responses to student event from multiple institutions across the country can be found on this list. The list provide a point of reference for other members within APLU aiming to “get a better sense” of how public universities are managing these relevant issues.
Campus Free Expression Project—Bipartisan Policy Center
The Campus Free Expression Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center aims to advance open inquiry and intellectual diversity. The project conducts research with the aim of developing policy recommendations and whitepapers on issues of campus free speech. They also publish articles and hold events across the country around these issues.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
Global Freedom of Expression, an initiative at Columbia University, aims to support free speech globally. It commissions and supports research and policy proposals; organizes events with free speech activists, lawyers, and scholars; and publishes commentary on international developments in free expression. Additionally, the initiative operates a database of global case law, with summaries and analyses of legal battles from around the world. This resource also has useful information on many domestic cases involving students, including:
- Meade v. Moraine Valley Community College: A professor sued her school when she was fired after writing a letter that criticized the institution.
- Bell v. Itawamba School Board: A high school student sued his school board after he was suspended and forced to transfer for posting a rap song with lyrics that threatened teachers on social media.
- Yeasin v. University of Kansas: A student sued his university for expelling him for off-campus conduct after he sexually harassed another student on Twitter.
Essential Partners and the Engaged Listening Project
Essential Partners focuses on fostering dialogues on university campuses. Its website has resources for faculty and administrators interested in innovative ways to stimulate classroom conversations. Its pedagogical approach, “the dialogic classroom,” is designed to encourage engagement, even on controversial topics, among those with different views and backgrounds while ensuring that students feel safe. The ultimate aim is to build classrooms with frequent, meaningful, and productive discussions that deepen participants’ understanding.
Essential Partners has worked with and endorsed the Engaged Listening Project at Middlebury College, an initiative directed by political science professor Sarah Stroup that promotes enriching ourselves by listing to others. The project has developed a guest speaker model that encourages organizers to move beyond one-sided lectures, instead structuring events as opportunities for engagement and discussion.
First Amendment Watch
First Amendment Watch is an online news and educational resource for journalists, educators, and students. It provides current news and access to historical documents and court cases related to the First Amendment. It also offers assistance to administrators and professors to teach the First Amendment, emphasizing the need for education in this field.
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
Founded in 1999, FIRE is a nonprofit group committed to defending civil liberties in academia by spreading awareness, encouraging activism, and providing legal representation. It offers information, a First Amendment resource library, tips for activism, and local and national news alerts on campus speech. FIRE focuses on six programs, including initiatives on policy reform and the defense of civil rights as well as the FIRE Student Network. A key legal resource for campus speech issues, FIRE provides advocacy and media connections and accepts cases from students and faculty members concerned about potential violations of their rights.
Free Expression—University of Chicago
This online resource from the University of Chicago includes a comprehensive history of free speech on campus, outlines the university’s free speech values in detail, compiles all university statements on the subject, and features relevant news and events. The website has valuable information and support for individuals looking to better understand contemporary approaches to free speech and serves as a model for an effective campus resource. The university’s 2015 “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” (sometimes called the Chicago Statement or Chicago Principles) has been adopted by over 50 colleges and universities across the country.
The Free Speech Project—Georgetown University
The Free Speech Project monitors the state of the First Amendment in education, civil society, and government. Its Free Speech Tracker, an online tool, documents and analyzes threats to free speech throughout the United States, revealing national trends. Directed by journalist, author, and professor Sanford Ungar, the Free Speech Project also distributes reports and curriculum materials and hosts forums at Georgetown on issues ranging from “the intersection of speech and national security to the Free Speech rights of incarcerated people.” The project pays particular attention to the way free speech issues affect and are reported by journalists. Among its ultimate goals is to create new ways to promote productive discourse in the public sphere, particularly on college campuses.
Freedom Forum Institute
The Freedom Forum Institute, a partner of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization that runs education and outreach programs on the First Amendment, religious freedom, and diversity and inclusion. Its First Amendment Center offers a wide array of free speech primers, summaries of relevant Supreme Court cases, and a comprehensive database of articles related to free speech. A sister site called The Quad has an online directory of organizations, influencers, and data to foster the understanding of free speech on campus.
Heterodox Academy (HxA)
Heterodox Academy (HxA), a nonpartisan collaborative of over 2,500 professors, administrators, and graduate students, promotes viewpoint diversity, based on the belief that culling the best ideas from a wide range of perspectives will improve education. In addition to insights provided by its academic experts, HxA uses two main research tools, the Campus Expression Survey, which assesses students’ openness or inhibition, and the interactive OpenMind platform, which aims to depolarize antagonists and foster mutual understanding. HxA hosts an annual conference on open inquiry, collects resources, conducts and disseminates research, hosts a blog, and reports on campus speech disputes.
Interfaith Youth Core
Interfaith Youth Core works on college campuses to promote interfaith cooperation as a means to pluralism and as a way of bridging divides and advocating for social change. IFYC operates on more than 450 campuses across the country, working with students, faculty, staff, and other university stakeholders. IFYC provides educational resources on pluralism and offers grants to students to fund programs promoting interfaith cooperation on their campuses.
NASPA Effective Strategies for Leaders in Student Affairs
The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) advocates for the “advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession.” The organization’s 2018 report describes First Amendment principles, details case studies, and suggests strategies for university leaders to promote the compatibility of free speech and inclusion. Focused on both intellectual understanding and on practical tools, the report is a useful primer on managing controversial speakers and events.
National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA)
NACUA assists higher-education attorneys so they can better serve colleges and universities. With more than 1,850 institutional campus members and 5,000 attorney representatives, it educates attorneys and administrators on campus-related legislative issues, provides legal resources and educational programming, and hosts networking events. NACUA’s website has a library of new cases and developments, a slate of online courses, and a repository of legal resources organized by topic, ranging from athletics and sports to constitutional issues.
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC)
The National Coalition Against Censorship promotes freedom of thought and expression and opposes all forms of censorship. Comprising 57 national non-for-profit organizations, it hosts four different programs, including the Youth Free Expression Program and the Open Discussion Project, and serves a broad audience of students, teachers, parents, artists, activists, librarians, higher-education administrators, and more. The NCAC also takes on legal cases of unjust censorship and hosts a network of members who provide expertise to the public on the First Amendment.
Open Academy—Claremont McKenna College
Claremont McKenna College’s Open Academy is an institution-wide initiative committed to the three pillars of intellectual life on campus and beyond: freedom of expression, viewpoint diversity, and effective dialogue. On its website, the CMC Open Academy outlines the definition and history of free expression, and its policy on Institutional Nonpartisanship. In practice, the CMC Open Academy designs curriculums and hosts lectures that lead its students to engage with complex issues, with an emphasis on the value of freedom of expression. Additionally, the CARE Center (Civility, Access, Resources, and Expression) within the Open Academy, seeks to build capacity in communicating across difference with respect and civility through hosting workshops and Real Talk series.
OpenMind is a free, interactive educational platform that uses concepts from social and moral psychology to foster critical inquiry with a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives. It helps students develop intellectual humility and encourages them to be open-minded and prepared for constructive dialogue and debate as they prepare to encounter new ideas in college. The platform can be used by campuses as an educational tool for incoming first-year students or by anyone looking to instill the value of free and open inquiry.
The Project on Civil Discourse at American University
The Project on Civil Discourse at American University promotes a learning experience rooted in productive, truthful, useful discourse. Stating that protecting free speech and combating censorship is only the first step, the initiative aims to encourage students “to move from thinking only about what they have a right to say and consider why and how they engage in conversations as speakers, listeners, and readers”. The project hosts events engaging in relevant issues, student-led facilitated discussions for building communication skills, and provides resources supporting both students and teachers shaping their voices.
Scholars at Risk
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of institutions and individuals with a mission to protect scholars and promote academic freedom around the world. Founded in 1999 at the University of Chicago, SAR is now housed at NYU and hosts a global network of 507 universities, colleges and associations in 39 countries. SAR arranges temporary academic positions at member institutions for scholars facing risks in their home countries, and campaigns for scholars imprisoned or silenced. SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project identifies, assesses and tracks incidents in violation of academic freedom and/or the human rights of members of higher education communities. The network also organizes numerous workshops and events each year, as well as a biennial SAR Global Congress.
Student Press Law Center (SPLC)
SPLC promotes, supports, and defends the First Amendment for student journalists and their advisers at the high school and college level. It provides free information, training, and education to student journalists, educators, attorneys, and administrators. Its website has a legal library, comprehensive FAQ pages, resources for educators, and news stories. SPLC also offers a legal hotline that can connect students with attorneys.
Tufts Institute for Democracy & Higher Education
Tufts Institute for Democracy & Higher Education is a leading venue for research, resources, and advocacy on college student political learning and engagement in democratic practice. Their signature initiative, National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), provides insights into student registration and voting rates for Universities and Colleges. With a belief that discussions in the classroom is not enough, they conduct qualitative research examining the campus climates of politically engaged colleges and universities. Their report Election Imperatives and toolkit offer practical advice and resources on how to promote political engagement on campus.
UCLA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion—Free Speech on Campus
This website, maintained by UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, compiles resources, guidance, commentary, statements, records of speech-related incidents at universities, and a detailed primer on free speech on campus, which carefully articulates how to uphold the values of both free speech and inclusion even when they might seem to conflict.
University of Florida—Free Speech and Controversial Speakers
The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida (UF) provides research, advocacy, and expertise to promote to promote the free flow of information and a well-informed public. A UF website called Free Speech and Controversial Speakers provides extensive resources, comprehensive FAQs, and a brief history of the school’s brushes with the First Amendment. The site is designed for both UF students who want to learn more about the school’s policies and outsiders who seek carefully chosen legal and scholarly resources on free speech.