Academic Freedom Conference Speakers


Lynn Pasquerella was appointed president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities in 2016, after serving as the eighteenth president of Mount Holyoke College. She has held positions as Provost at the University of Hartford and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Rhode Island, where she taught for than two decades. A philosopher whose work has combined teaching and scholarship with local and global engagement, Pasquerella has written extensively on medical ethics, metaphysics, public policy, and the philosophy of law. Her most recent book, What We Value: Public Health, Social Justice, and Educating for Democracy, examines the role of higher education in addressing some of the most pressing contemporary issues at the intersection of ethics, law, and public policy. Pasquerella is immediate past president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the host of Northeast Public Radio’s The Academic Minute.  

Eric K. Ward is a Senior Advisor at the Western States Center, a nationally-recognized expert on the relationship between authoritarian movements, hate violence, and preserving inclusive democracy, is the recipient of the 2021Civil Courage Prize –the first time in the award’s history that an American has won the prize, revealing the dangerous proliferation of hate crimes and political violence by authoritarian and extremist movements in the United States. Eric brings over three decades of leadership in community organizing and philanthropy to his roles as Western States Center’s outgoing Executive Director and Senior Advisor, and member of the President's Leadership Council for the Search for Common Good. Since Eric took the helm in 2017, Western States Center has become a national hub for innovative responses to white nationalism, antisemitism, and structural inequality, towards a world where everyone can live, love, work, and worship free from bigotry and fear. In his 30+ year civil rights career, Eric has worked with community groups, government and business leaders, human rights advocates, and philanthropy as an organizer, director, program officer, consultant, and board member. Currently Chair of The Proteus Fund, Eric is Advisor to the Bridge Entertainment Labs, a member of the Pop Culture Collaborative’s Pluralist Visionaries Program, and the recipient of the Peabody-Facebook Futures Media Award. Eric is in high demand as a speaker and media source, and is the author of multiple written works credited with key narrative shifts, including “Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism.” He has been quoted in The New Yorker, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, ESPN, Black News Channel, NPR, BBC, Rolling Stone and numerous other media outlets, and regularly publishes on Medium. Eric has a special interest in the use of music to advance inclusive democracy. In 2020 he helped to launch the Western States Center Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab which works with musicians to create new narratives that puncture the myths driving our political and social divisions, and invite people who don’t always trust politicians and movement leaders into the safe and trusting conversational space that exists between a performer and their audience.

Irene Mulvey is president of the American Association of University Professors. She was elected to that office in June 2020 on a platform that, among its priorities, pledged to begin to reckon with institutional racism in the AAUP and in the academy. Under her leadership, the AAUP has implemented a racial equity initiative involving elected leadership and staff with the ambitious goal of permanent, structural, and organizational change and a shift toward viewing all the Association’s work through a racial equity lens. Together with other AAUP officers and the AAUP’s governing council, she steered the AAUP/AFT affiliation agreement through the AAUP approval process, which resulted in an overwhelming vote in favor of affiliation at the AAUP biennial meeting in June 2022, and the implementation of the agreement on August 1, 2022. Dr. Mulvey taught mathematics for thirty-seven years at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, a Jesuit institution located on Long Island Sound. She retired as a full professor from Fairfield in 2022 and was awarded the title of professor emerita of mathematics. Her activism in higher education began at the local level and grew to national prominence over the course of her career. 

James Grossman is Executive Director of the American Historical Association.  Formerly Vice-President for Research and Education at the Newberry Library, he has taught at University of Chicago and University of California, San Diego. The author of Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration and A Chance to Make Good: African-Americans, 1900-1929, Grossman was project director and coeditor of the Encyclopedia of Chicago. He is editor emeritus of the University of Chicago Press book series "Historical Studies of Urban America," which he abandoned to his colleagues after 50 volumes. Articles and short essays have focused on urban history, African American history, ethnicity, higher education, and the place of history in public culture. Short pieces have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time, New York Daily News, North Shore Magazine, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Hill, and elsewhere. Grossman’s consulting experience includes history-related projects generated by BBC, Smithsonian, and various theater companies, films, museums, libraries, and foundations. Currently immediate past president of the National Humanities Alliance and vice-president of the National Coalition for History, he has served on governing boards of the American Council of Learned Societies, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Center for Research Libraries, Vivian G. Harsh Society, and Chicago Metro History Education Center. Grossman tweets @JimGrossmanAHA 

Sumi Cho is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at The African American Policy Forum. Sumi came out of retirement to serve as the Director of Strategic Initiatives leading the #TruthBeTold campaign. Prior to joining AAPF, she taught Critical Race Theory and Race, Racism & U.S. Law for twenty-five years along with other traditional law classes at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. In 2017, she was awarded the university’s highest excellence in teaching award. She was also the inaugural recipient of the Derrick A. Bell Distinguished Service Award from the Association of American Law Schools’ Minority Section. She speaks nationally on issues of affirmative action, sexual harassment, intersectionality, multiracial politics and coalitions and critical theory. She holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies as well as a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Professor Cho is cited extensively for her scholarship on critical race theory and intersectionality.



Panel #1

Lynn Comella, Ph.D., is Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies and Chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. An expert on the adult entertainment industry, she has published widely on the topic of sexual cultures and economies in both academic and popular media outlets. She is the author of Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure (Duke, 2017) and co-editor of New Views on Pornography: Sexuality, Politics, and the Law (Praeger, 2015). She is the former co-chair of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Adult Film History Scholarly Interest Group, and a member of the editorial advisory boards for the Routledge journal Porn Studies and the University of Edinburgh’s “Screening Sex” book series. Her research has been featured nationally and internationally in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Playboy, ABC Nightline, Sydney Morning Herald, Weekendavisen, De Tijd and more. She was a 2021-2022 research fellow with the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement and received the 2015 Nevada Regents’ Rising Researcher Award in recognition of early career accomplishments.   

Sharon Wright Austin is Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Her research focuses on African-American women’s political behavior, African-American mayoral elections, rural African-American political activism, and African-American political behavior. She is the author of Race, Power, and Political Emergence in Memphis (Garland 2000); The Transformation of Plantation Politics in the Mississippi Delta: Black Politics, Concentrated Poverty, and Social Capital in the Mississippi Delta (State University of New York Press 2006); and The Caribbeanization of Black Politics: Race, Group Consciousness, and Political Participation in America (State University of New York Press 2018). She has also published articles in the National Political Science Review, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, the Journal of Black Studies, and Politics and Policy, as well as several book chapters. She is currently editing a book entitled Political Black Girl Magic: The Elections and Governance of Black Female Mayors (Under Contract, Temple University Press).  Dr. Austin is also a member of the editorial team for the American Political Science Review.

Jonathan Friedman, Ph.D., is the director of free expression and education programs at PEN America. He oversees research, advocacy, and education related to academic freedom, educational gag orders, book bans, and general free expression in schools, colleges, and universities. He has served as lead author on numerous PEN America reports, and frequently provides commentary to national media on free speech issues in schools and colleges. Dr. Friedman holds an MA and Ph.D. in international education from NYU. 

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Christopher Newfield is Director of Research at the Independent Social Research Foundation in London. He currently serves as President of the Modern Languages Association. Newfield began his career as an Assistant Professor of English at Rice University, before moving to the University of California, Santa Barbara where he worked for over thirty years. Newfield’s doctoral education was primarily in U.S. cultural history and literary theory, and he continues to work in a range of disciplines with a focus on cultural problems. His academic work has focused on Critical University Studies, American literature since 1990, California culture and society, quantification studies, and the status of literary knowledge. Within American Studies, Newfield’s research has explored the following longstanding issues: racism and its relation to culture wars on academia, the US as a culture of coercion and force, managerialism and fiscal control, the Democratization of knowledge, and the use of humanities knowledge. Newfield has written a trilogy of books on the university as an intellectual and social institution: Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980 (Duke University Press, 2003); Unmaking the Public University: The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class (Harvard University Press, 2008); and The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016). Newfield is currently conducting research on the nature and effects of literary knowledge.

Panel #2

Ralph Wilson is the founder of the Corporate Genome Project. As a former co-founder and Research Director of UnKoch My Campus in 2011, he helped pioneer a resistance movement of students and faculty against corrupt donor influence. Ralph has applied his background studying the mathematics and physics of complex systems to larger questions of corporate power and resistance. He is co-author of Free Speech and Koch Money from Pluto Press.

Isaac Kamola is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science. His teaching and research examines the intersection of international political economy, African politics, and the politics of higher education. In the classroom he strives to challenge students to think critically about their own positionality as political and economic actors, and what this practice might mean for the project of engaging the world differently. Isaac’s written work is published in a number of edited volumes and journals, including British Journal of Politics and International RelationsInternational Political SociologyJournal of Higher Education in AfricaThird World Quarterly, and Polygraph. He is co-author of Free Speech and Koch Money from Pluto Press. Before going to Trinity, Isaac spent a year as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University and two years as an American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS) New Faculty Fellow at Johns Hopkins. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2010.

Katy Krieger, Ph.D., is a Project Manager in the Office of the Provost at the University of Oregon where she works on projects related to academic freedom, faculty mentor programs, policies, inclusive teaching, professional licensure and accreditation, tenure-track faculty hiring, endowments, and promotion and tenure. Prior to this role, Dr. Krieger was the senior assistant director of first-year composition and an instructor at the University of Oklahoma where she completed her doctoral degree in English: Literature and Culture on “Feeling, Feeding, and Feigning Humors: Shakespeare, Jonson, and Early Modern Humoral Theory”. Dr. Krieger has also served in leadership roles in higher education at the University of Oklahoma, Oregon State University (her alma mater for her HBA and MAIS), and Oklahoma City Community College where she managed international programs, coordinated three psychology research labs, directed and developed curricula and assessment, and taught online/hybrid/in-person courses. Her publications include book reviews for MLA, journal publications in Fat Studies, and a recent chapter titled, “Guest Rights and Gods: Historical Hospitium in Game of Thrones,” in Theology and Game of Thrones by Rowman & Littlefield.

Cassandra Woody, M.A., is an Assistant Teaching Professor and an Assistant Director in the First-Year Composition department at the University of Oklahoma. Her research interests are writing program administration, feminist rhetorics, rhetorical theory, rhetorical education, and curricular development. She is a co-author of the OU FYC curriculum. 

George Ciccariello-Maher is an organizer, writer, radical political theorist and Visiting Associate Professor at Vassar College.  He has been Visiting Scholar at the Decolonizing Humanities Project at the College of William & Mary, the Hemispheric Institute in New York and the Institute of Social Research at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and has taught previously at Drexel University, U.C. Berkeley, San Quentin State Prison, and the Venezuelan School of Planning in Caracas. He holds a B.A. in Government and Economics from St. Lawrence University, a B.A. Hons. and M.A. in Social and Political Sciences from St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley. His first book, a history of revolutionary movements in Venezuela entitled WE CREATED CHÁVEZ: A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE VENEZUELAN REVOLUTION, was published by Duke University Press in 2013. He recently published a short follow-up on the political dynamics of the post-Chávez era entitled BUILDING THE COMMUNE: RADICAL DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA (Jacobin-Verso, 2016). His third book, DECOLONIZING DIALECTICS, was published in 2017, as the first volume in the Duke University Press book series RADICAL AMÉRICAS, which he co-edits with Bruno Bosteels. His dispatches have appeared in The NationJacobinSalonHuffington PostCounterpunchMR ZineZNetVenezuela AnalysisAlternetWarscapes MagazineHistory Workshop OnlineMediaLeftThe SF Bayview, and Wiretap Magazine, and he has written op-eds for Fox News Latino and the Philadelphia Inquirer. His academic articles have appeared or are forthcoming in ConstellationsJournal of French and Francophone PhilosophySouth Atlantic QuarterlyTheory & EventLatin American PerspectivesContemporary Political TheoryQui ParleMonthly ReviewRadical Philosophy ReviewListeningJournal of Black StudiesHuman Architecture, and The Commoner, as well as numerous edited volumes.

Panel #3

Lori Latrice Martin, Ph.D., is Associate Dean in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor in the Department of African and African American Studies at Louisiana State University.  Dr. Martin is the author of numerous books and scholarly articles.  Dr. Martin’s recent publications include: Introduction to Africana Demography and America in Denial.  She was born and raised in Nyack, New York.

Michael C. Dreiling is Department Head and Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon where he specializes in political and environmental sociology. He is author of three books, numerous research articles, and is presently working on a coauthored book on Dirty Energy. His documentary film series with Matthew Eddy began with an award-winning documentary on Costa Rica’s demilitarized society – A Bold Peace – and is now proceeding with a three-part film series titled Heiwa on Japan’s transformation from a militaristic empire to a pacifist democracy. Professor Dreiling served two terms as president of AAUP Oregon and three terms as the inaugural President of United Academics at the University of Oregon from 2013-2018. As a University of Oregon Senator, he chaired the committee to revise the university’s policy on academic freedom, 2013-14. He is now co-editor for AAUP’s Journal of Academic Freedom

Tabitha S.M. Morton is an assistant professor of Political Science at Prairie View A&M University. She earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Texas A&M University with concentrations in public administration, public policy, race, ethnic, and gender politics. Her work is based on evaluating race and gender-neutral policies to determine their impacts on marginalized communities. A significant portion of her research uses theories from public administration to address these racial and gender disparities by creating research models that improve the ability to predict future trends and provide policy alternatives to reduce inequality.