2011 marked the busiest year yet for FIRE’s Speakers Bureau. Through the Speakers Bureau program, students and faculty members from across the country can invite FIRE staff members to visit their schools and teach their peers about campus speech rights. This year, our staff spoke about free speech and student rights to university audiences at 50 campus events and student conferences nationwide.
Some speeches, like Greg’s talk at the Claremont Colleges in February, discussed absurd speech codes that are chilling discourse on campus. In conjunction with his speech, one particular code at Claremont-McKenna College—a member of the Claremont Consortium—was named February’s Speech Code of the Month, and it was actually revised this fall!
Other events, like Adam’s visit to Sam Houston State University in October, allowed FIRE to facilitate student discussion in the aftermath of a free speech controversy. You may remember the case at SHSU, where a professor used a box cutter to censor a free speeech wall organized by student groups. Through the Speakers Bureau, Adam was able to visit SHSU just a few weeks after the incident and speak directly with the students who suffered this act of censorship but refused to be silenced.
One of the most exciting FIRE speeches for me this year happened at Constitution High School in Philadelphia, where I had the privilege of meeting 25 students in an AP American Government class. When I showed the class FIRE’s newest video, Silencing U, and talked about our work, many were shocked. These smart and talented students, who could easily name the five rights enumerated in the First Amendment and had already learned about First Amendment cases like Tinker and Cohen,had no idea that such brazen acts of censorship could occur on a university campus. All of them immediately wanted to look up their favorite colleges on FIRE’s site to see if they maintained active speech codes or were involved in past FIRE cases. It was an exciting opportunity to let students know about the potential for campus censorship before they decide where to apply.
From California to Florida and from Massachusetts to Texas, one thing is certain: without the help of our supporters, FIRE’s message could never have reached so many students and faculty in 2011. Please consider donating today to help us expand our campus presence and reach even more student audiences in 2012!