Founded in 1999, FIRE is the only organization devoted exclusively to defending the fundamental freedoms of students and faculty members on our nation’s campuses—the very place in our society where these freedoms are most crucial to the development of our future leaders and the preservation of our constitutional character. FIRE carries out this mission through several core programs focused on both awareness and activism.
Individual Rights Defense Program
The Individual Rights Defense Program (IRDP) provides assistance to individual students, professors, and campus groups whose fundamental civil liberties have been violated. Working through outreach to administrators, the strategic use of publicity to generate public attention and pressure, and, when necessary, the coordination of legal counsel, the IRDP has secured hundreds of victories for students and faculty members since FIRE’s founding. For more information about recent IRDP cases and past victories, visit FIRE’s case archives. To submit a case of your own, click here.
Policy Reform Project
The Policy Reform Project encompasses FIRE’s efforts to proactively and systematically change campus speech policies that restrict students’ and faculty members’ expressive rights. Through in-depth research and legal and public advocacy, this project secures vital reforms to some of the nation’s most egregious speech codes. Using research from FIRE’s Spotlight Database, the Policy Reform Project targets speech codes through correspondence with college administrators, on-campus collaboration with student and faculty allies, and public awareness initiatives including our “Speech Code of the Month” feature and annual speech code report. It also coordinates FIRE’s Free Expression Campaign, which encourages universities to adopt a principled statement on freedom of expression modeled after the “Chicago Statement“.
Legislative and Policy Project
The Legislative and Policy Project works to support FIRE’s policy reform efforts by combatting government policies that threaten to erode free speech protections and by advocating for greater legislative and legal protections for individual rights in higher education. At both federal and state level, this project pursues legislative priorities such as the passage of legislation to reinforce due process protections on campus, define the standard for student-on-student harassment, ban “free speech zones” from public campuses, and protect academic freedom.
Procedural Advocacy Project
FIRE’s Procedural Advocacy Project is dedicated to promoting due process and fair procedure on campus. Through research such as our Spotlight on Due Process report and resources for attorneys, policymakers, campus community members, and the general public, this project works to educate a wide range of stakeholders about the lack of due process on campus and to secure the reforms needed to ensure fairer campus disciplinary processes.
FIRE coordinates national litigation efforts aimed at challenging some of the biggest threats to campus rights. Beginning with the launch of our Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project in July 2014, FIRE has worked with plaintiffs from the around the country to challenge unconstitutional speech codes. Our newest initiative, the Million Voices Campaign, expands that work even further by partnering our own counsel with FIRE Legal Network attorneys in an effort to file challenges that ultimately free one million student voices. FIRE also engages in open records litigation in an effort to ensure transparency surrounding campus rights issues. More broadly, this project also works to advance FIRE’s mission in the legal field, connecting with attorneys nationwide through our Legal Network, publishing legal scholarship, and filing amicus briefs in key cases.
FIRE Student Network
The FIRE Student Network (FSN) is a dynamic coalition of students dedicated to advancing individual liberties on their campuses in partnership with FIRE. The FSN offers numerous educational and activism resources to its members, including FIRE’s Guides to Student Rights on Campus. In addition, the FSN’s annual conference, summer internship, on-campus speeches, and various outreach programs provide students with the skills and strategies necessary for action. The FSN also coordinates FIRE’s Student Defenders program, which empowers students around the country to become knowledgeable and dedicated peer advocates who can advise fellow students as they navigate their school’s disciplinary system.
FIRE Faculty Network
Launched in 2017 as part of our Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research Project, the FIRE Faculty Network is a diverse coalition of faculty interested in defending and sustaining academic freedom and faculty rights, free speech, and civil liberties on campus. The centerpiece of this project is its annual conference focused on academic freedom issues. By organizing this event and supporting our Network members, FIRE hopes we can encourage a broader movement to address the current challenges to academic freedom and free expression on campus in a serious, scholarly way.
High School Outreach Project
FIRE recognizes that we need to engage young students before they arrive on campus so that they have the knowledge necessary to understand and value First Amendment freedoms. FIRE’s High School Outreach Project is aimed at doing just that. Originally an initiative of FIRE’s Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research Project, this program offers a number of resources and coordinates several initiatives, including a curriculum package, free speech comic, and essay contest. Through these efforts, we are working to educate and empower high schoolers to be effective champions of liberty.
Public Awareness Project
FIRE’s Public Awareness Project works to educate the public about the state of liberty on our nation’s campuses, raising awareness and generating public pressure for reform through publicity efforts. FIRE’s media outreach, podcasts and multimedia productions, print and online publications, advertising and marketing campaigns, and social media engagement reach millions of Americans every year, sparking critical discussions of key campus issues and First Amendment concerns.