PHILADELPHIA, December 28, 2005—This past year was the most active yet for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE simply won too many battles for individual students, professors, and student groups’ rights to mention all of them now. Here is a sampling of the successes FIRE had during 2005:
- Vindicating the rights of students at a Florida college who were banned from showing the movie The Passion of the Christ because of its “R” rating—even though the college had hosted a skit called “F**king for Jesus”;
- Defending Rhode Island College social work student Bill Felkner after professors attempted to force him to publicly advocate for political positions with which he disagreed;
- Convincing Princeton University to reject a policy that singled out religious groups for repression by giving administrators the power to arbitrarily refuse to recognize them;
- Continuing freedom’s march across the Ivy League with the elimination of Dartmouth College’s repressive speech code;
- Helping a Christian fraternity at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill prevail in court against an unconstitutional policy banning religious groups from using religious criteria to choose leaders and members;
- Winning similar victories for a Muslim group at Louisiana State University and a Christian group at the Milwaukee School of Engineering;
- Restoring the rights of several student newspapers, including one at the University of Oregon that had lost its funding for making fun of a student senator;
- Successfully intervening when Northeastern Illinois University prevented students from holding an “affirmative action bake sale” protest;
- Restoring freedom of speech at a Florida college where student Eliana Campos had been forbidden to hand out pamphlets from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals;
- Defeating the State University of New York at Brockport’s speech code in court and coordinating a legal challenge to another speech code at Alabama’s Troy University;
- Securing the suspension of an unconstitutional University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire policy banning student resident assistants from leading Bible studies in their dormitories;
- Eliminating a “harassment” conviction against a Muslim student employee at William Paterson University who sent a private e-mail expressing his religious objection to homosexuality; and
- Defeating Washington State University’s attempt to expel education student Ed Swan for expressing his conservative political and religious views.
Details on all of these victories, as well as FIRE’s many other defenses of liberty on our nation’s campuses, can be found on the Case Archive page on FIRE’s website.
FIRE also saw significant successes in its campaign to educate the public about the sorry state of liberty in contemporary American academia. Some highlights of this culture-changing effort include:
- The release of FIRE’s flagship publication, FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus, an invaluable resource for students whose expressive rights are under attack on campuses nationwide;
- The launch of FIRE’s official blog, The Torch, which is now a daily presence in the battle for campus freedom;
- The debut of Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource, FIRE’s online database where with one click visitors can see a complete picture of an institution’s restrictions on liberty;
- Celebrating the anniversary of FIRE’s founding, which Suzanne Fields featured in her nationally syndicated column;
- The publication of FIRE’s Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform On Campus, the final installment in FIRE’s series of Guides to Student Rights on Campus;
- The incredible success of FIRE’s website, which now receives 200,000 monthly visitors; and
- FIRE’s continued prominence in the media, which this year included a segment on ABC World News Tonight, several appearances on Fox News Channel, countless radio interviews, two New York Times stories, several lengthy pieces in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a glowing Associated Press profile that ran in dozens of newspapers nationwide, and much more.
“This was a very busy year for those of us who defend basic rights on campus, which is both good and bad news for anyone who cares about the future of liberty,” declared FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. “We did not just see an unprecedented number of violations during 2005—we also won an unprecedented number of victories. We hope that next year, our increasingly successful efforts to educate the public about the abuses on campus will help stop some violations before they start.”
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Greg Lukianoff, Interim President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; email@example.com