When looking back at a year gone by, FIRE often recalls our accomplishments by the numbers, marking a year by each victory won, each speech delivered, or each op-ed published. This year, those accomplishments are certainly worthy of celebratory retrospection. But, in looking back at 2011, it is also important to reflect on the individuals FIRE has defended. After all, FIRE’s work is driven by our determination to defend the individual rights of each and every student and faculty member who comes to us for help. In the face of the powerful higher education industry, these individuals are the true monuments of FIRE’s mission-and one of the reasons we need your continued support.
Over the next several days, we will count down some of the most compelling reasons to support FIRE. Today, I’d like to offer reason #3:
FIRE is the only organization committed to working diligently to secure the rights of students and professors on an individual basis when their rights are wrongly or unlawfully denied, and our work has helped save the professional careers and academic futures of hundreds.
Over the past twelve years, FIRE has helped countless individuals, and this year was no different. The year started with Syracuse University law student Len Audaer facing expulsion under absurd charges of harassment for his alleged involvement in an anonymous blog satirizing life in law school. When Len came to FIRE for help, we quickly began a public campaign and the school was forced to back down from its unlawful actions. Without FIRE, Len, a smart young man brimming with potential, may well have been expelled from law school and falsely labeled as a harasser.
Unfortunately, students like Len aren’t the only targets of university administrators. FIRE also strongly advocates for faculty members whose careers are at risk. For example, this year we continued to defend Professor James Enstrom, who was let go from his job at UCLA after 34 years of service because his research did not align with the "mission" of his department. Enstrom was targeted after he challenged research that the California legislature used to enact regulatory policies governing diesel emissions by pointing out that the lead "scientist" behind the study supporting the new policies had purchased his credentials from a diploma mill. Months later, the battle for Enstrom’s future rages on, but FIRE’s work has helped ensure that Enstrom has yet to lose his livelihood.
FIRE also came to the defense of Roman Caple, who is a prime example of a student targeted by overzealous administrators for publicly criticizing those in authority. Caple was denied the right to participate in graduation ceremonies at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina because of a single comment he posted on the college’s Facebook page criticizing how the school handled its cleanup after a tornado and encouraging students to make informed arguments about the matter. While his family will never have the chance to watch with pride as their son accepts his diploma among his peers, FIRE has done our part to make sure Saint Augustine’s College doesn’t repeat this disgrace.
These are just a few examples of the brave individuals who have turned to FIRE this year when their academic careers, professional lives, and personal reputations were targeted. They are among the concrete examples of the significance of our mission and the urgency of our work, and we couldn’t have helped them without the continued support of our generous donors. As the only nonprofit in the nation dedicated to preserving liberty on campus, FIRE needs your help in 2012. Please consider donating today, and stay tuned to The Torch for more reasons to support FIRE!