Campus Free Speech Initiative Project Director

PEN America
New York City, New York
Jun 05, 2018
Jobs Outside Higher Education
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Institution Type
Specialized Institutions

Campus Free Speech Initiative Project Director

PEN America seeks a Program Director to lead our efforts on defending free speech and open discourse at US colleges and universities. The Director will lead PEN America’s work in shaping these important national debates, helping to develop and amplify the organization’s thought leadership, approaches and materials nationally. The Director will bring advocacy and communication skills to raise PEN America’s profile within campus speech debates, engaging with a wide range of partners and stakeholders.

PEN America has forged a unique role in the debate over free speech and inclusion on campus, acknowledging that universities need to do more to address concerns of those marginalized due to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other characteristics, but that campuses can—and must—do so while sustaining robust protections for academic freedom and freedom of speech. In October 2016, PEN America released And Campus for All: Diversity, Inclusion, and Free Speech at U.S. Universities, a groundbreaking study analyzing the recent upsurge of speech-related controversies on college campuses, and presenting a set of recommendations for how campuses can preserve free expression while also addressing the real concerns of students who feel marginalized or threatened. Since the publication of the report, PEN America has engaged in an expanding array of activities to promote and develop its ideas, including training, convening, analysis and outreach.

PEN America now seeks an energetic, visionary full-time leader to further develop this Program and contribute meaningfully to fostering a more constructive approach to the defense of free speech at universities and among a rising generation of Americans.


  • Developing and executing plans to further build and amplify PEN America’s campus speech work, including the development of materials, day-to-day analysis and commentary on key incidents, engagement with leaders in university administrations, academic associations and student groups, and identifying other forms of intervention that build upon PEN America’s existing work.
  • Building relationships with college and university leaders at public and private schools across the country as well as relevant national associations and coalitions, in order to share PEN America’s expertise on campus speech challenges and to identify areas in which PEN can support campuses experiencing speech-related challenges.
  • Identifying areas of opportunity for innovative research projects, public-facing campaigns, and legislative advocacy focused on campus speech, and overseeing the development and implementation of such efforts.
  • Developing materials for use by campus administrators, student leaders, and faculty, e.g., tool kits, know-your-rights briefers and primers.
  • Monitoring and analyzing relevant developments on America’s college campuses and guiding PEN America’s responses, in coordination with other PEN staff.
  • Participating in online and offline debate and dialogues on campus speech issues
  • Building, networking, and engaging in coalitions on college campuses that address issues of free speech, and advancing PEN America’s engagement on this issue.
  • Raising PEN’s profile in this area by attending and speaking at conferences and other events
  • Proposal-writing and donor cultivation to sustain and build the project
  • Supervising related staff and interns.


  • A minimum of 3-5 years of relevant experience in program development, policy and legislative advocacy, advocacy campaign management, and/or research.
  • Strong knowledge of the First Amendment and contemporary debates over free speech on America’s college campuses.
  • Proven experience with network building and collaborative program development.
  • Excellent research and writing skills, including for rapid response to new developments (e.g., press releases, blog posts) and for longer reports.
  • Experience leading trainings or workshops preferred.
  • Relevant professional backgrounds include: journalism, human rights, civil rights, research, legal, or university-related professional work.


  • High level of energy, strong stamina and demonstrated ability to effectively multitask in a fast-paced environment
  • Ability to respond quickly and effectively to breaking developments in the public sphere
  • Capacity to conceive and execute mission-aligned, strategic and distinctive projects and programs
  • Track record for innovation, creativity and effectiveness in advocacy and outreach
  • Passion for PEN America’s mission and work, and for safeguarding free expression.
  • Demonstrated initiative and ability to work independently.
  • Willingness to consider and objectively analyze diverse points of view.
  • Ability to speak articulately and persuasively on issues of free expression and inclusion.
  • Strong organizational and event-planning skills.
  • Excellent diplomatic and interpersonal skills.
  • Ability and willingness to travel nationally

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.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.

To Apply: Please submit a cover letter, resume, unedited writing sample, and the contact information for three references. Please submit the entire application to [email protected]. Please use “Campus Free Speech Initiative Project Director” and your name as the subject of your email (for example, Campus Free Speech Initiative Project Director - Jane Doe). Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool. No phone calls, please.

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