The pen is mightier than the sword, they say, and Associate Professor Adam Braver and a group of students are trying to prove that the old adage still holds true today.
Professor Braver and his class are in a partnership with the PEN American Center to help free imprisoned writers and journalists worldwide. The students, with Professor Braver’s guidance, act as case-minders who research and track PEN cases related to imprisonment for freedom of expression. This group’s most recent focus was on ran Khai Thanh Thuy, a renowned writer who is wrongfully imprisoned in Vietnam. The students work the case for the entire year, cultivating skills that range from community outreach and political lobbying to media relations and research. Professor Braver, who is an accomplished novelist in addition to being an inspirational teacher, says he learns as much from his students as they do from him.
“The students are so passionate about the work they’re doing,” he says. “Although they all come from varied backgrounds, they truly bond over the cases and become a close-knit group. The difference in this course is that it’s real life – not a theoretical course about writing or lobbying. This is actually happening, and these prisoners are relying on us to make a difference. Ours is a classroom without walls.”