FIRE announces Targeted Advocacy department, Home & Abroad Initiative

September 11, 2019

FIRE is proud to announce a new department dedicated to bringing our work to a wider audience.

FIRE’s Targeted Advocacy department will oversee projects like our First Amendment Library, Banned Books Week, art censorship activism and — starting today — our exciting Home & Abroad Initiative, dedicated to helping students and faculty with international ties.

Sarah McLaughlinSarah McLaughlin

Long-time FIRE staffer Sarah McLaughlin will lead the department. 

“As the challenges that face freedom of expression evolve, we hope to reach new audiences who could benefit from learning more about their rights and how to defend them,” Sarah said, “whether through FIRE’s First Amendment Library or resources for students studying abroad.”

Sarah said today’s launch of the department’s Home & Abroad initiative will “help FIRE respond to new challenges that arise as students, faculty, and academic institutions travel across borders.” 

FIRE’s previous reporting on the topic can be found on our new Home & Abroad Resources page.

“FIRE’s main priority is to ensure that the important values of free speech and academic freedom are maintained on U.S. campuses,” Sarah said. “But American universities’ relationship with the rest of the world, and the challenges and benefits associated with it, also affect free expression.”

“Between concerns about viewpoint-based visa denials at the U.S. border, censorship at American institutions or programs abroad, and foreign funding at U.S. campuses, it’s clear that the relationship between American universities and free expression is impacted by more than just the First Amendment and campus speech codes,” she added.

Home & Abroad will provide students the resources they need to understand and defend their rights, including through today’s release of guides to student rights in Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish

“Our goal is to educate both students coming to the United States about their rights here and students leaving the United States for programs abroad about potential censorship they could face overseas,” Sarah said. “We also want to encourage American universities to think carefully about the way partnerships with illiberal regimes may affect the rights of their community members.”

“I’m excited to help a new group of students — who, as non-citizens, understandably might not have a strong understanding of their rights while studying in the United States — learn that the First Amendment protects them here too, especially since many of them may be visiting from countries with oppressive speech and protest restrictions.”