Today I wrote an e-mail to FIRE’s supporters sharing our newest video and explaining why supporting FIRE is so important. Support for our work comes in many more ways than just monetary donations, and many of our loyal Torch readers have helped us achieve our mission over the years by spreading awareness about our cases, writing to unjust administrators, and offering their expertise on a wide variety of issues. I wanted to be sure to share my message to FIRE’s donors with all of you as well, for you have each played a role in FIRE’s fight for liberty.
To FIRE’s dedicated supporters,
I hope you will take a moment to watch this short video about the importance of FIRE’s work and the crucial role supporters like you play in our mission. Alisha Glennon, our director of development, and I provide a brief glimpse of the scope and scale of the problems on campus and their dire implications for the health of our democracy, reviewing just how critical you and all of FIRE’s supporters are to the future of our colleges and our nation.
As you may know from your own experiences, those of your children, or even just from reading FIRE’s updates, the threat to discourse and open inquiry on America’s campuses is widespread. Universities have become breeding grounds for a culture of censorship, training an entire generation to destroy opinions they dislike. I highlighted some of the worst examples of this trend in a recent interview with spiked magazine, specifically noting the uptick in cases of students destroying or stealing student newspapers because of "offensive" or "disagreeable" material inside. Newspaper theft and other acts of student-on-student censorship are symptoms of a much larger problem: college students are being taught that comfort and quiet is preferable to inquiry and debate. Students who are brave enough to speak out are immediately targeted by censors and rebuked by a culture that prefers feigned "politeness" over healthy debate. Students with the "wrong" viewpoints on contentious issues like terrorism, gun rights, drug policy, or affirmative action are punished for merely raising questions about topics that, while routinely discussed in our society, are silenced in the very environments where they should be most vigorously argued.
FIRE is the only organization out there working to combat this culture of censorship, and our supporters are the only people that can ensure we have enough resources to win.
As I mention in the video, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees when it comes to FIRE’s cases. It may not always be easy to understand the significance of, for example, protecting the due process rights of a student blogger at Syracuse, or defending the right of students to e-mail about political issues, or standing up for a student who was targeted for making fun of campus parking officials. But only by defending each and every one of these students—and winning on their behalf—can FIRE truly transform campus culture so that it encourages open inquiry and intellectual exploration. Until students are free to dissent on campus, no other serious reform within higher education is possible. It is the ability to see this big picture that sets our allies apart and makes you the key to FIRE’s success.
As we enter a new year, we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that critical thinking and vigorous debate are intellectual habits that our future generations can enjoy.