FIRE Celebrates Ten Years of Defending Individual Rights on Campus

By on October 22, 2009

PHILADELPHIA, October 22, 2009Today the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) celebrates ten years of defending student and faculty rights at America’s colleges and universities with an anniversary dinner and the release of a new FIRE short film. Nearly 200 FIRE supporters, staff, and board members will gather tonight at New York’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Columbus Circle to celebrate FIRE’s 159 public victories for liberty (and counting) at 120 colleges and universities across our nation, which have affected more than 2.6 million students.

Legendary columnist, civil libertarian, and jazz critic Nat Hentoff, who is the Honorary Dinner Chairman for the tenth anniversary celebration, states, "There is no organization in the United States equal to FIRE in protecting free expression across the boardregardless of politics, religion, no religion, and all other categories. FIRE provides college students with a basic education in being an American that they cannot get anywhere else."

FIRE’s 10th-anniversary film, "Reflecting on 10 Years of FIRE," by filmmaker Andrew Marcus, will premiere at the dinner. The film features the stories of students and professors who have been part of some of FIRE’s most outrageous cases over the years. From a case at Washington State University, where the university actually organized and financed a group of students to disrupt a student playwright’s musical comedy, to the now infamous case of the University of Delaware’s massive Orwellian thought control program, the film takes a look back at FIRE’s first ten years of work and the changes that have been wrought on campuses nationwide.

Since its founding in 1999, FIRE has fought violations on college campuses of freedom of speech, due process, religious liberty, freedom of the student press, and freedom of conscience. FIRE has also made an unprecedented effort to catalog the speech codes of nearly 400 of the largest and most prestigious colleges and universities in America with its Spotlight speech code database, and has educated hundreds of thousands of college students about their rights with its series of five Guides to Student Rights on Campus.

While the film will reflect back on FIRE’s history, the evening will also be spent looking forward. FIRE is currently in the midst of fighting against new abuses of individual liberty on campus, like Bucknell University’s censorship of criticism of President Obama’s stimulus plan and East Georgia College’s sacking of a professor for "sexual harassment" without any apparent evidence except that he had criticized the sexual harassment policy. FIRE has been the nonpartisan leader of the movement for liberty on campus during the last decade and is moving into its second decade eager to continue the fight to defend campus rights.

In addition to Hentoff, tonight’s celebration in New York will feature author and former editor-in-chief of Reason magazine Virginia Postrel as Mistress of Ceremonies and world famous constitutional law scholar and creator of The Volokh Conspiracy blog Eugene Volokh as keynote speaker.

Greg Lukianoff, FIRE’s president, thanks FIRE’s many supporters, saying, "It has been the work of ten years and of thousands of dedicated individuals and supporters to make FIRE the exceptional advocacy organization that it is today. With your help, we can have an even more successful second decade as we continue to draw closer to the day when the battle for campus liberty is won."

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.

CONTACT:

Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 212-582-3191, greg@thefire.org