Academic Freedom Lecture to feature free‑expression advocate


Jonathan Friedman, the director of free expression and education programs at PEN America, will give the keynote address at the Faculty Senate’s 33rd annual Davis, Markert, Nickerson Lecture on Academic and Intellectual Freedom.

The free event will take place from 4-5:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Law School’s Honigman Auditorium in Hutchins Hall and will also be available via livestream.

Friedman’s lecture, titled “Educational Gag Orders, State Censorship, and the Fight for Higher Education,” will explore censorship by state legislatures that threatens the free exchange of ideas and institutional autonomy in higher education.

The talk will address new laws limiting teaching about race, gender, American history and LGBTQ+ identities, and how the higher education community has a unique role to play in communicating this anti-democratic threat to the public.

An interdisciplinary scholar, Friedman has served as lead author on several PEN America reports about educational censorship, and he regularly provides commentary for news media.

Other speakers at the event will include:

  • Faculty Senate Chair Tom Braun, professor of biostatistics, School of Public Health.
  • Elizabeth Birr Moje, dean, George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education and professor of education in the Marsal Family School of Education; Arthur F. Thurnau Professor.
  • Melanie Tanielian, associate professor of history in LSA, and DMN Committee co-chair.

The annual lecture is named after former U-M faculty members Chandler Davis, Clement Markert and Mark Nickerson, who were called to testify in 1954 before a panel of the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities. All three men invoked their constitutional rights and refused to answer questions about their political associations.

The men were suspended from the university. Markert, an assistant professor, was reinstated and eventually gained tenure. Davis, an instructor, and Nickerson, a tenured associate professor, were dismissed.

Several years later, a push was made for the Board of Regents to apologize for what happened. They did not, so the U-M faculty’s Senate Assembly passed a resolution in 1990 expressing deep regret for “the failure of the University Community to protect the values of intellectual freedom” in 1954 and established the annual lecture in honor of the three men.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.