Be a free speech hero at your school! Five ways to help your campus commit to expression

By September 27, 2018

Since the August 29 launch of FIRE’s Commit to Expression toolkit, students across the country have signed up to utilize our toolkit to effect change on campus.

In so doing, they have gained access to a plethora of incredible resources, including opportunities for funding, and will have a chance to be acknowledged and rewarded by FIRE for their efforts at the close of the fall semester.

The Commit to Expression toolkit empowers students with the knowledge and resources they need to urge their schools to adopt their own version of the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (the “Chicago Statement”). The Chicago Statement is an overarching statement of principles endorsing free speech and open inquiry, noting that “it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”

Sign up today and help your institution take a leading role in the national debate about campus free speech by encouraging robust dialogue and debate among its students and faculty. Below are a few suggestions to help you get started:

1. Write an op-ed.

Op-eds are a great way to get the attention of the campus community and gain allies. Use an op-ed to go “on the record” about why the adoption of the Chicago Statement is an important step for your school. Take a look at FIRE’s resource on how to place an op-ed to get started! Also, take a look at these examples from other students for inspiration.

2. Launch a Chicago Statement petition.

If you haven’t already done so, sign the Chicago Statement petition yourself! Next, engage in outreach activities on your campus with the goal of getting as many folks as possible to do the same. Do what you can to get the word out that free expression is important for everyone on campus.

3. Host an event.

Consider inviting a member of FIRE’s staff to discuss the adoption of a free speech statement at your school. Reach out to a diverse range of community members and ask if they would be willing to host the event with you. The adoption of a free speech statement is important for everyone on campus, and support from a wide range of students will get the message across to administrators that free speech is a nonpartisan issue.

4. Introduce a free speech resolution before your student government.

Contact members of the student government at your school and ask them to take a stand in support of student and faculty rights by adopting a free speech resolution. Build support for the endeavor by sharing the resolution with the campus community via email, social media, tabling events, op-eds, and word of mouth. Through a resolution by the student government, you can send a message to the administration that free speech is a cause that the student body wants to prioritize.

5. Meet with a campus administrator.

Reach out to your school’s president, provost, dean of students, or head of the faculty senate, and ask to meet about the possibility of adopting a free speech statement at your school. Come to the meeting prepared to answer questions and address concerns. If you need help preparing for your meeting, reach out to FIRE by emailing students@thefire.org! We would be happy to schedule a call to brainstorm tactics, help develop your arguments, and direct you to the best resources available.

Students across the country have already signed up to Commit to Expression on their campus, and excitement continues to build as they get to work planning free speech-themed events, inviting FIRE speakers, launching Chicago Statement petitions, hosting letter-writing drives, writing op-eds, meeting with campus administrators, and much more. As always, FIRE’s staff is here every step of the way to offer advice and provide support.

Sign up today to join the fight!