Larry Siems Joins Knight Institute as Chief of Staff

January 30, 2018
Siems is the Institute's new chief of staff

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University announced today that Larry Siems, formerly the Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center, has joined the Institute as chief of staff. Siems will have a broad role at the Institute, encompassing responsibilities relating to strategic planning, communications, fundraising, management, and administration.

“Larry is an extraordinarily effective advocate for free expression – a clear thinker, a beautiful writer, and a person of deep integrity,” said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director. “I’m thrilled that he’ll be involved in shaping the Institute’s culture and work.”

Siems was Freedom to Write Program Director at PEN USA in Los Angeles from 1995 through 2000, and directed PEN American Center’s free expression advocacy and international programs from 2001 through 2013. He has written extensively on issues relating to free speech and censorship in the United States and elsewhere, and he edited Guantánamo Diary, a New York Times bestselling book that has been translated into 22 languages. Early in his career, he covered immigration and cross cultural issues in Southern California, and worked with Human Rights Watch to research human rights abuses by U.S. border patrol agents. 

“I’m grateful to be part of the Knight Institute’s extraordinary team during this all-hands-on-deck moment for the freedoms of speech and the press,” said Siems. “I’m excited to be part of the Institute’s efforts not only to defend these essential freedoms today, but to develop the ideas and tools that will protect and expand them in the digital age.”

The Institute also announced other significant additions to its staff.   

Lincoln Caplan, who has been working with the Institute over the past year, will formally join the Institute’s staff as senior editor. Caplan is a senior research scholar at Yale Law School and was formerly the editor and president of Legal Affairs magazine, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a member of The New York Times editorial board. In his role as senior editor, Caplan will bring new, distinctive voices into the Institute’s community to generate conversations on challenges to the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age.

Ramya Krishnan and Greg Margolis have recently joined the Institute as legal fellows. Krishnan earned her LL.M. from Columbia Law School and law degree from the University of Sydney, where she served as an editor of the Sydney Law Review. Prior to joining the Institute, Krishnan clerked at the Supreme Court of New South Wales and worked for the Australian Attorney General’s Department. Margolis graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, where he served as book reviews editor of the Michigan Law Review, and clerked for the Hon. Todd E. Edelman of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia after graduation.

Both Krishnan and Margolis will contribute to the Institute’s litigation docket, which includes a landmark lawsuit regarding government censorship on social media, a challenge to the Department of Justice’s refusal to disclose legal memos that constitute the binding law of the executive branch, and an effort to expose the implications of government directives that authorize suspicionless searches of travelers’ cellphones and laptops at U.S. borders.

About the Knight Institute

The Knight First Amendment Institute is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization established by Columbia University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to defend the freedoms of speech and press in the digital age through strategic litigation, research, and public education.