Former ACLU President Nadine Strossen on FIRE’s ‘Critical Role’

September 10, 2015

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In this interview during the 2015 FIRE Student Network Conference, civil liberties giant Nadine Strossen praises “FIRE’s wonderful work” protecting student rights on campus.

Strossen, a professor at New York Law School and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said that while society has made great strides in tolerating some kinds of unpopular speech, problems remain.

“FIRE plays an absolutely critical role because the assaults on free speech on campus are of epidemic proportions and there’s no other organization—including the ACLU—that has the resources to focus specifically on that very widespread, very important problem,” she said.

Strossen also discusses her personal path to protecting civil liberties and her work defending the free speech rights of pro-Vietnam War speakers despite her personally being anti-war, and that of pro-life advocates despite being pro-choice.

She said the most interesting cases she’s encountered are where “there is a conflict or a tension between freedom of speech and other values,” and praised FIRE’s work in ensuring a range of civil liberties on campus, including due process.

As for what she thinks students should do if they face censorship on campus?

“I would say for a student whose viewpoint is being suppressed, that he or she has a real responsibility—and I know it’s a tough one—to stand up not only for that person’s own rights, but to bear in mind that you are also standing up for the rights of everybody else,” said Strossen.

Standing up for individual rights on campus, she said, sets the stage for a path forward for society at large. We couldn’t agree more, and we thank Professor Strossen for her generous support of FIRE and our work.

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