FIRE Highlights from 2009

By December 28, 2009

  • In 2009, FIRE won 29 public victories for students and faculty members at 26 colleges and universities with a total enrollment of nearly 700,000 students, and we were responsible for changing 13 unconstitutional or repressive policies affecting more than 250,000 students. In total, FIRE received more than 380 case submissions in 2009. FIRE tries to help everyone who contacts us with cases: in addition to the many public and private victories we have won for individuals and student groups (all of which are highlighted here on our interactive victory map), FIRE refers individuals that we cannot directly help to other resources and organizations that can assist them in pursuing their cases.

  • FIRE continued to reach substantial audiences through its aggressive public awareness campaign, which strives to reach not only students and faculty but also the public and the media with our issues. In 2009, FIRE was featured in 179 news articles in 91 publications with a combined print and online circulation of more than 107 million. Coverage of FIRE’s work appeared in such noted publications as The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, Inside Higher Ed, and The Boston Globe and on widely read blogs including The Huffington Post and Pajamas Media. This year FIRE staff members also spoke on 14 radio broadcasts and made 5 television appearances, including appearances on MSNBC and on former CNN show Lou Dobbs Tonight (which averaged approximately 653,000 viewers).

  • In 2009, FIRE launched an expanded advertising campaign which combined high-impact advertising in print publications with the newest online advertising technology to spread FIRE’s message farther than ever. As part of this campaign, FIRE orchestrated for the first time ever a multi-pronged and fully coordinated advertising blitz at the beginning of the academic year, with the goal of ensuring that when students and their parents set foot on campus, FIRE’s message was everywhere. FIRE launched print advertisements that reached more than 2.5 million individuals and online advertisementsincluding ads on popular social networking website Facebook.comthat were viewed more than 38.5 million times.

  • FIRE launched a redesigned website in July 2009, which has a new look and features aimed at increasing user interaction, functionality, and understanding of individual rights with easier access to news, case materials, multimedia, publications, and more. As part of the redesigned site, FIRE has also upgraded the rating system in Spotlight, our speech code database, and is updating each school’s entry to include individual ratings for every single speech policy at that school. By delineating each of the thousands of policies within Spotlightinstead of just providing one overall rating for each schoolFIRE is making Spotlight an even better resource for facilitating reform on campus.

  • To celebrate FIRE’s landmark ten-year anniversary, FIRE hosted a 10th Anniversary Celebration Dinner in New York City on October 22, 2009. The dinner brought together more than 200 of FIRE’s friends and supporters and was a great success, featuring several inspiring speeches, the premiere of FIRE’s new short film, "Reflecting on 10 Years of FIRE," and the recognition of FIRE’s first-ever Prometheus Award recipients. The award was given to two University of Delaware professors who were instrumental in revealing and bringing an end to the shocking thought reform program at the University of Delaware.

  • FIRE’s grassroots Campus Freedom Network added more than 2,000 new members in 2009, bringing its total membership to more than 3,300 students, faculty, and alumni from more than 1,250 schools across the nation. Through initiatives like the CFN student conference, high school essay contest, CFN incentives program, and a stand-alone social networking website, the CFN increasingly finds new ways to reach out to and engage current and prospective college students as active partners in spreading liberty on campus. The CFN has grown into such an effective program on campus that its efforts were recently recognized by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which awarded FIRE’s CFN a Templeton Freedom Award for Student Outreach. This award is bestowed on two organizations each year that have worked successfully to advance the cause of liberty among young minds worldwide, and FIRE is only the second American organization to win the award. Prominent CFN faculty members include Todd Zywicki, Alan Charles Kors, Mike Adams, Don Downs, KC Johnson, Mark Bauerlein, Lou Marinoff, Alan Dershowitz, and Richard Losick, a recent recipient of the prestigious Gairdner International Award.

  • In 2009, FIRE launched a new Legal Transformation Project, which bridges FIRE’s education and defense programs in an effort to generate lasting change in the repressive culture of our nation’s campuses by reaching out to the policymakers who have created this culture: college and university administrators. On the educational side of this project, FIRE works to proactively open dialogues and foster cooperative relationships with university administrators and their legal counselsin effect, convincing them to "join our side" and to work with FIRE to understand the shortcomings of their unconstitutional policies and then to reform these policies. FIRE recently published a guide for administrators titled Correcting Common Mistakes in Campus Speech Policies, which aims to make it as easy as possible for administrators to reform their policies and also to prevent administrators from making these same errors when they create policies in the future. Where cooperative efforts fail, FIRE’s Legal Transformation Project focuses on generating increased legal pressure as a means to force change among the most stubborn administrators.

  • FIRE’s Speakers Bureau, launched in the fall of 2008 to facilitate the ability of students to bring FIRE staff directly to their campuses to speak about students rights, witnessed substantially higher demand for speakers in 2009. FIRE representatives made 38 public speaking appearances, well surpassing the 21 speeches delivered in 2008 and more than quadrupling the 8 public appearances made in 2007.