‘Free Speech Week’ Celebrated on Campuses Nationwide

By April 13, 2012

FIRE celebrated Free Speech Week last week by teaming up with Students For Liberty to send FIRE speakers and materials to student groups across the country. We’re pleased to announce it was a great success!

I <3 the Constitution 

To mark the occasion, 72 student groups distributed FIRE materials and pocket-sized Constitutions on campus. More than 20 student groups also organized expressive events. Many decided to build Free Speech Walls at schools including American University, Boston University, Harvard University, Kansas State University, Winthrop University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Texas San Antonio.

Adam Kissel

FIRE’s Campus Freedom Network (CFN) also worked with students to arrange FIRE speaking events at seven schools across the country. More than 250 students, faculty, and administrators attended these speeches to hear about FIRE’s work promoting individual rights. For students who could not attend one of these talks in person, we also hosted FIRE’s first ever webinar on Tuesday, April 3. This interactive online discussion featured FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley, who explained the case law supporting speech rights on campus. Will wrote a great Torch post answering questions that came up during the webinar, which is worth checking out here. We are looking forward to continuing FIRE’s webinar series with more events next fall.

Our Free Speech Week events caught the attention of campus reporters. Azhar’s visit to the University of Chicago inspired an article about the school’s "red light" speech codes in The Chicago Maroon, and event organizer Charlie Vidal wrote a blog post about the speech and the group’s Free Speech Wall here. At Kansas State, the Young Americans for Liberty’s wall was featured on the back cover of The Collegian. And it was refreshing to see positive news come out of one of FIRE’s "12 Worst" schools, Harvard, where the Harvard Libertarian Forum’s Free Speech Wall invited student expression all week without incident, and was reported in The Harvard Crimson.

Free Speech Wall at KSU 

Not all groups were so lucky, disappointingly. The Free Speech Wall at American University was removed by campus police without any notice between Monday night and Tuesday morning. According to AU student Alex McHugh, when the AU Students For Liberty contacted the Student Activities office (which had approved the event, and an identical one last fall), the office "stated that they support the removal and would have done the same." After negotiations last week, AUSFL was allowed to rebuild the wall this Wednesday once the group agreed to "staff" the wall while it was up. Alex wrote a guest op-ed about this disheartening experience, which was printed in The Eagle on Tuesday.

We at FIRE had a great time celebrating Free Speech Week, and we want to thank SFL and all the students who raised awareness about free speech on campus last week, especially Bryant Jackson-Green, Charlie Vidal, Matt Arbos, Tony Cotzias, Trey Stokes, Alex McHugh, Riley Inks, Andrew Kaluza, and their student groups for hosting us!

Free Speech Week may have come and gone, but the CFN helps students promote their rights on campus year-round. To learn more about the CFN’s many resources for students, check out thecfn.org or email me at jaclyn@thefire.org.

Schools: University of Texas at San Antonio Kansas State University University of Chicago Boston University American University Harvard University