Counting Down the Top Five Reasons to Donate to FIRE: #4

By December 22, 2010

On Monday you heard from Alisha about FIRE’s unique nonpartisanship and our reputation as a principled defender of civil liberties. Here’s the next reason you should donate this year:

FIRE is proactive, working hard to stop college censorship before it starts. Not only do we remind college administrators of their moral and legal obligations to uphold student rights on their campuses, but we also educate current and prospective college students, parents, organizations, and even administrators, so that they too can become free speech advocates and prevent abuses before they happen.

A critical part of FIRE’s mission is educating members of the public about the right to free speech on campus, and recently we’ve stepped up this initiative with quite a few exciting new projects. We think all Torch readers ought to know about them.

Earlier this year, FIRE hired a Sweidy Stata Video Fellow, Joe Stramowski, who has been instrumental in the production of several films about FIRE’s cases and mission. You can follow Greg’s blog series this week and next on FIRE’s video projects.

We’ve also hired a new Campus Freedom Network (CFN) Associate Director, Jaclyn Hall (who is a former FIRE summer intern), and Joanna Brenner as our new Public Awareness Associate. We are so happy to have them as part of our team, and very thankful to every FIRE donor for making these additions possible.

Jaclyn works directly with CFN members to defend liberty on their campuses. Since she has started, FIRE has published a new guide for students and student groups who find themselves involved in a speech code lawsuit or who want to challenge unconstitutional speech policies so they can liberate their own campuses. Jaclyn also spearheaded FIRE’s 2010 Speakers Bureau, which continues to be an excellent way to get students interested in campaigning for their rights. Last semester, 16 campuses hosted a FIRE speaker to lecture on topics ranging from how to be proactive about defending your rights to the implications of the unfortunate Supreme Court decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.

Joanna is responsible for our website, as well as all of FIRE’s public awareness efforts, and is our tweeting connoisseur. Today’s students are remarkably tech-savvy, and Joanna is able to help FIRE appeal to a larger number of people through online expansion and social networking. Check out our Facebook and Twitter!

We were also able to present our first-ever Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course, entitled "Free Speech 101: Protecting Free Expression and the First Amendment at our Nation’s Colleges and Universities." The course provided a look at the state of the law on freedom of speech on college campuses and trained new and experienced lawyers alike. It was offered for CLE credit in both Philadelphia and New York by FIRE attorneys Will Creeley, Azhar Majeed, and Samantha Harris. The course will soon be available online as well.

One of the most successful ways this organization is able to catalyze change is through exposing the practices that universities conduct in private to the general public. This year, for the third year in a row, FIRE’s full page ad in U.S. News & World Report highlighted our current "Red Alert" list, the six educational institutions that are the worst offenders of liberty on campus.

These are just a few highlights of our always expanding Individual Rights Education Programthe arm of FIRE that works to stop injustices at colleges and universities before they happen, and to educate people who have already been subject to rights violations and may not even realize that they have the ability to fight back.

If you value what we do here at FIRE, we ask that you e-mail us at support@thefire.org and tell us why you support our work. We will even send you a free FIRE T-shirt for sharing the motivation behind your donations.

We depend on our donors to help us achieve our definitive goalestablishing a higher education environment where robust student rights are the rule, and not the exception!

Please consider contributing to FIRE this year. Also, keep a look out on Christmas Eve for the # 3 reason to donate!