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Back-to-school: FIRE stands ready to defend the rights of all students and faculty members on campus

By August 31, 2017

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 31, 2017 — As students and faculty members return to campus this year, they can be sure that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is prepared to defend their rights.

FIRE is excited to offer a range of resources to students and faculty to defend their civil liberties. Some of FIRE’s new resources for this academic year include:

  • Student Defenders: The right to a fair hearing is threatened at colleges and universities across the United States. Last month, FIRE announced Student Defenders, a program to help students start groups dedicated to defending student rights. Are you a student? Start a group today!
  • First Amendment Library: To protect your rights, you have to know your rights. Last year, FIRE launched the First Amendment Library: a free, ever-expanding online database of First Amendment-related materials, including illustrated timelines, educational materials, scholarly articles, and court cases.
  • FIRE Student Network: Are you a student concerned about campus rights? You are not alone. The FIRE Student Network is a diverse coalition of thousands of college students who care about protecting civil liberties at their schools. This summer, the network completely revamped its website, adding 20 new resources that offer educational and practical tips for students to defend and protect civil liberties. Check them out!
  • Chicago Statement: This year, FIRE’s Policy Reform team will make a renewed push for universities to endorse the “Chicago Statement” on free speech. In 2015, FIRE called the Chicago Statement the gold standard for campus free speech policy statements. So far, 23 institutions or faculty bodies have adopted or endorsed the statement. Do you want to lead a campaign to adopt the statement at your college or university? Get in touch!
  • Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research: Last year, FIRE announced an ambitious three-year project to conduct surveys on campus attitudes, engage in legal and social science research, and mobilize a wider audience in the fight for student and faculty rights. The SOAR project took flight in January. As part of the project, this fall we will host FIRE’s first-ever faculty conference, release the results from our first survey, launch a new activism portal on our website, and solicit essays for our high school essay contest — with more exciting initiatives to be announced soon!

These new initiatives build on a string of recent FIRE victories. This summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit barred Iowa State University from forbidding its National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws chapter’s use of the school’s logos on T-shirts advocating for marijuana legalization. The decision represents FIRE’s biggest Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project court victory to date.

An avalanche of colleges and universities are going “green.” In the past week alone, four schools have earned FIRE’s highest, “green light” rating for free speech. And in the past three months, six North Carolina schools have gone green. These institutions are among 36 colleges and universities nationwide that earn this distinction because their written policies do not threaten student and faculty expression, according to FIRE’s Spotlight database.

And in May, the Tennessee state legislature passed the Campus Free Speech Protection Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. It is the most comprehensive piece of legislation protecting free speech on college campuses ever passed in the country. In 2017, Colorado, Kentucky, Utah and most recently North Carolina also passed strong pieces of legislation that unlock more areas of campus for free expression.

“Would-be censors have become increasingly brazen,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “This presents a new challenge for civil liberties advocates and will require innovative solutions. Speakers at Middlebury, Berkeley, and Claremont McKenna were all successfully shut down last year by violent mobs. If free speech is to survive on campus, that cannot happen again this year.”

Students and faculty facing campus rights violations can contact FIRE through our easy-to-use case submission page.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

CONTACT:

Daniel Burnett, Communications Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473; media@thefire.org