2011: FIRE’s Best Year Ever

By on December 31, 2011

By many measures, 2011 has been FIRE’s best year ever, despite serious, ongoing threats to fundamental rights on campus.

  • FIRE has won hundreds of cases since our founding in 1999, securing the most victories ever in a single year. In 2011, FIRE won 31 public victories on 29 campuses, with total enrollments of more than 500,000 students. Our work has helped save the professional careers and academic futures of students and faculty members nationwide.

    Read Peter’s post for a rundown of the highlights of the worst and craziest free speech cases of 2011, and read Azhar’s post for a rundown of our most significant Individual Rights Education Program victories. We have more "green light" schools (those that maintain no policies that seriously imperil free speech) than ever, now including Arizona State University, which revised its speech codes to protect free speech for its more than 60,000 students.

    And since FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month became a regular feature in June 2005, 31 universities have fully revised the policies that earned them that dubious distinction. As Sam’s post explains, three of the schools listed in 2011 have already revised their policies. This is significant, as Bridget points out that success in higher education reform depends on protecting the freedom to dissent and transforming the culture on campus to give all views a chance in the marketplace of ideas.

  • We reached a combined circulation of more than 116 million through print and online news outlets this year, and our social media reach has blasted through the roof. See Greg’s post on the huge response to our 2011 advocacy against the threats to free speech and due process posed by new mandates from the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

    This week we blew by 4,000 Twitter followers and 4,500 Facebook likes, and we’re just a few shy of 850 YouTube subscribers following the wild success of our latest video, Don’t Mess with Firefly! How SciFi Fans Made a Campus Safe for Free Speech. That video alone has gained 60,000 views over the past few days. Thanks to Robert and Joanna for getting our video projects and online presence so far in 2011.

  • Our staff spoke about free speech and student rights to university audiences at 50 campus events and student conferences nationwide, far eclipsing all previous years. Check out Jaclyn’s post with Lyzi’s map to see where we’ve been this year. (By the way, the Pacific Northwest has a lot of catching up to do.)
  • In 2011, the number of submissions to our high school essay contest grew by 75%.
  • FIRE has contributed to legal scholarship and submitted a number of amicus (friend of the court) briefs. Don’t miss Andrew’s post for a roundup of 2011 free speech case law involving students, especially those cases involving off-campus speech using social media.

Huge thanks to all of our friends and supporters, students, faculty, staff, parents, donors, trustees, and more, for contributing so much to FIRE’s success in 2011. Have a Happy New Year!