Special Announcement: What I Plan to Do with the Freedom of Expression Prize

By on October 1, 2008

As loyal Torch readers know, last week I was extremely honored to be chosen as the recipient of the Playboy Foundation’s first-ever Hugh M. Hefner Freedom of Expression Award. Thanks to all of you who wrote to congratulate me, to David Rubenstein for nominating me, to all of those who supported my nomination, and, of course, to the Foundation and its distinguished judges.

A few of you have asked me what I plan to do with the $25,000 award. While my original plan was to wait until the award ceremony on October 21st to announce this, I decided it’s better to share the news sooner rather than later: I have designated that 100% of the $25,000 be donated to FIRE.

As I’ve been saying for years (and most recently in the Summer FIRE Quarterly): I truly believe FIRE’s work is the best hope for positive change on campus, I believe we are the hardest working nonprofit out there, and I believe there is no better way to spend your charitable dollar if you wish to see basic rights preserved on America’s campuses. While I deeply appreciate the Playboy Foundation’s recognition of my work, none of this would be possible if it was not for the extraordinary leadership and brilliant model given to us by our founders, Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate, the consistently exceptional work of FIRE’s staff, and the generosity of our supporters.

While FIRE cases can often be absurd, our founders, staff, and supporters understand that there is something very serious at stake, something that transcends the bounds of campuses alone: if students are learning that they have the right to censor dissenters, that freedom of speech ends the moment anyone is offended, and that our citizens have far fewer rights than they actually do, then we face nothing less than a long-term threat to the health of our democracy. FIRE has been uniquely effective at fighting this trend and has moved aggressively from "just" winning cases for wronged students towards a wholesale campaign to educate students, faculty members, and administrators about basic rights and academic freedom. FIRE’s goal is nothing less than an academy where respect for free speech, freedom of association, due process, and private conscience are simply part of the culture.

Therefore, I can think of no better use of the Playboy Foundation award than to support the work of FIRE, especially in these financially uncertain times. I will think hard about how the money could best be used to increase FIRE’s effectiveness, but in the meantime, I ask you to strongly consider giving to FIRE and sharing with your friends the reasons you choose to support to us. Every new donor and additional dollar helps send the message to the academy that the erosion of basic rights on campus will not be tolerated. Will you join me and give to FIRE today?