Now’s the Time to Invite a FIRE Speaker to Campus

By August 30, 2011

Yesterday, Jaclyn listed many of FIRE’s various back-to-school resources and academic-year resources for students. Today I’d like to remind students and faculty members that FIRE can send a speaker to your campus. You should start planning now if you want someone to come this year to share insight and stories about free speech and speech codes, free speech zones and public demonstrations, freedom of conscience and religious freedom, due process, individual rights on campus, the use of student activity fees, your right to engage in political advocacy on campus, or other topics on which FIRE has special expertise.

Hosting a FIRE speaker is a great way to inspire your peers to see the importance of free speech and individual rights in the "marketplace of ideas" on campus, where college students often spend the first four to six years of their adult lives. Speakers also can provide a public analysis of your school’s own speech code (unfortunately, most schools have at least one unconstitutional or illiberal policy) and provide specific ways to be proactive for students’ rights.

The FIRE Speakers Bureau offers expertise from a variety of FIRE’s staff. Greg, Robert, Will, Samantha, Azhar, Peter, and I are available, and at any particular time you’ll be likely to find one or more of us available to speak anywhere in the United States.

But the more you plan ahead, the easier it will be to cosponsor a speaker with a rich diversity of student groups and academic units, sharing the message that free speech is for everyone (and sharing the costs). At the University of California, San Diego, last year, 11 different media and political groups across the political spectrum cosponsored my talk.

FIRE speeches make an impact on campus. It is not unusual to see a dean of students show up and take careful notes. After I spoke at the University of Virginia at the invitation of a student group, FIRE began working with the dean of students to abolish all four of the school’s speech codes. Within months, the speech codes were gone, and the university had earned a "green light" rating from FIRE.

Many spots for the fall term this year are already taken—we have more than 10 talks scheduled. Last academic year, FIRE speakers gave 38 talks through the Speakers Bureau.

Start thinking and planning today! We look forward to hearing from you.