FIRE Attends Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 46th Annual Legislative Conference; Talks Speech Code Reform at HBCUs

September 21, 2016

FIRE joined current and future African-American leaders—including President Barack Obama, comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, and students from across the country—last week at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 46th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC).

The theme of the conference, which ran from September 14–18 and filled the 2.3 million square-foot Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, D.C., was Defining the Moment, Building the Movement.

FIRE attended the ALC to connect with the many current and prospective college students it attracts. We spoke with many students who were already in the process of organizing protests on their campuses, and we made sure to provide them with our best FIRE resources including copies of our Guide to Due Process and Campus Justice, our Guide to Free Speech on Campus, and our FAQ for Student Protests on Campus. We also gave students information on how to contact us directly, so if their rights on campus are violated, they know exactly where to turn for help.

The ALC conference included multiple breakout sessions focused on college students. For example, in a session on “The State of HBCUs: History, Present, Future,” attendees heard about the status of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from HBCU presidents and BET host Terrence “J.” Jenkins. FIRE took the time to connect with as many students attending HBCUs as possible, which is particularly important given that many HBCUs maintain restrictive speech codes. We connected with numerous students who wanted to tackle reforming their codes, and we look forward to working with them in the future.

The conference also brought together federal and state legislators from across the country. Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., and a number of other CBC members —including Rep. Karen Bass, D-Cal., and Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo.—were in attendance. FIRE spoke with policymakers about our work protecting students’ rights on campus, including our work advocating for increased due process protections for students involved in campus disciplinary hearings.

This was FIRE’s first ALC and we really enjoyed it. We hope to be back next year!