Faculty Network Conference

Faculty Conference 2021

Since 2017, FIRE has hosted an annual conference bringing together several dozen professors in different disciplines for a weekend of discussion and debate on current issues of free speech and academic freedom in American higher education. The FIRE Faculty Network Conference features presentations by faculty, which are selected through an open call for proposals. Presentations are accompanied by panel discussions led by other faculty participants, who offer responses to the presented material and help facilitate discussion among the attendees. This year’s conference will be held from October 14-16, 2021, with sessions to take place at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center, in downtown Chicago.

FIRE’s Faculty Network Conference is highly interdisciplinary in nature, and presentations take a variety of approaches to their chosen subject. Presentations at previous conferences have included quantitative studies, law review articles, and critical essays, to name just a few. The published volumes from our previous conferences will give an idea of the variety of ideas and approaches showcased at our conference.

While our call for proposals recently ended, we are now accepting general applications from faculty and advanced graduate students to attend this year’s conference.

A few notes on FIRE’s 2021 Faculty Network Conference:

  • Faculty Network Conference attendees are eligible for a stipend of up to $750 to assist with travel and lodging expenses related to the conference. (Attendees will be reimbursed following the conclusion of the conference.)
  • The conference is relatively small (roughly 50-60 attendees generally). Given the limited number of spots available, FIRE will attempt to give additional consideration to faculty who have not attended our Faculty Network conferences before.
  • If you already submitted a proposal for this year’s conference, you are not required to apply again to attend.

Please email facultyoutreach@thefire.org with any additional questions, and join FIRE’s Faculty Network if you aren’t already a member to ensure that you receive our latest updates and announcements.

Frequently asked questions:

What is the overall schedule for the conference? What dates and times do I need to keep in mind?

  • The main dates of the conference sessions will be Friday, October 15 and Saturday, October 16, with travel dates at either end:
    • Thursday, October 14, is a travel day for attendees, with a planned happy hour in the evening.
    • On Friday and Saturday, the conference sessions will run from about 9:00 a.m. to 4:30-5:00 p.m.
    • On either Friday or Saturday evening (date to be announced soon), FIRE will host a keynote speech, followed by a reception. The keynote event will likely run from roughly 7:00-9:00 p.m.
    • On the opposite evening from the keynote (i.e., on Friday if the keynote is on Saturday), there will be a happy hour for attendees following the conclusion of proceedings.
    • Sunday, October 17, is a travel day, and there is no official conference business.

How does the travel stipend work? Is there anything I need to do to ensure I’m eligible?

  • If you attend the conference, there should be nothing additional needed from you to ensure eligibility for the stipend. Provided you are paying out of pocket and your travel costs are being covered in full or in part (for instance, by your department or academic unit), all that will be required is to provide travel receipts to FIRE following the conclusion of the conference, up to $750, for reimbursement.

Does FIRE have a particular place for attendees to stay?

  • Yes. FIRE has negotiated room rates at a hotel close to the conference venue, and more information on reserving using FIRE’s room block will be made available once you are accepted to attend.

Praise for FIRE’s Faculty Conference

“I have attended twice now and I have found both exceptionally important, both in terms of my own thinking about free speech issues and in being motivated to work on them at my campus. I hope it continues in the future. I think it’s making a real impact on developing a national network of like-minded individuals and setting the stage for important reforms.” – Matthew Mulvaney, Syracuse University

“Respectful disagreements are sometimes anathema in professional conferences. FIRE’s conference is a welcome breath of fresh air.” – Siddhartha Roy, Virginia Tech

“On many campuses dissenting against the stultifying orthodoxy can be a lonely and alienating experience. If nothing else, the FIRE faculty conference assures individual dissidents that they are not on their own and that they have allies elsewhere in the academy.” – Helen Baxendale, University of Oxford

“While it was great to interact with like-minded people, this setting enabled heated disagreement and substantive debate, without the looming fear and dread associated with such discourse on campus. I haven’t experienced this type of dialogue in a long time, and found it both refreshing and enriching.” – Matt Moreali, Southern Oregon University

Virtual options for 2021

While FIRE hopes that by the fall circumstances will allow us to conduct our conference at least mostly the way we have in previous years, much is obviously outside our control in terms of our vaccine response, and the extent to which local regulations will permit an in-person conference. We also recognize that some faculty may still not be inclined to travel even if it has become significantly safer to do so by later this year. For these reasons, FIRE plans to complement the usual in-person proceedings by giving Faculty Network members the opportunity to watch proceedings virtually, and will conduct the conference virtually to the extent conditions and regulations require. Regardless of our ability to conduct the conference in-person, we are committed to presenting the conference in 2021. We will keep faculty informed on all developments related to the conduct of the conference and our safety precautions.