After noticing an alarming number of due process injustices across the nation in university conduct hearings, FIRE decided to take action. We are thrilled to launch the FIRE Student Defenders program, which will help students start groups dedicated to defending student rights on campus.
The judicial process provides a great opportunity to teach students about why their rights are important. Often in campus disciplinary proceedings, there is no guarantee that students will be notified of the allegations against them, have sufficient time to prepare their defense, have the opportunity to present their case to an impartial hearing officer or panel, obtain access to exculpatory evidence, or be able to hire a lawyer. These and other elements are necessary to ensure accused students receive a fair hearing. It is essential to have students on campus who can help their fellow students advocate for a fair process.
Student Defenders will be able to provide each student with a comprehensive overview of their rights and options within the campus conduct process. They will serve as allies to students — providing explanations of each step of the process, answering questions, and oftentimes just being there to listen. By offering this assistance to all students, Student Defenders will make each university community a better, fairer place.
FIRE is pleased to provide students with the resources they need to start a Student Defenders group of their own, including a comprehensive start-up guide, sample constitution, tips for recruiting and training members, logos, templates for flyers, and much more. FIRE is also able to offer $150 grants to assist with starting a group on campus, and $50 grants for advertising.
While these groups have no formal connection to FIRE and will vary in size and structure, they will be united in their mission to promote legal equality and protect due process for their fellow students.