2008 has been a year of firsts for FIRE’s Campus Freedom Network (CFN). Conceived as a network of liberty-minded students and faculty members, the CFN exists to facilitate a change in the campus culture from one of censorship to one of liberty. Since the debut of its new website in February, the CFN has more than tripled its membership, exceeding 1,500 members across the nation.
The first annual CFN student conference took place on June 26–28. FIRE brought over forty students from around the country to Center City Philadelphia, to hear from speakers including FIRE Co-founder Harvey Silverglate, Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Steve Aden, Stanford Law professor Derek Shaffer, and Indoctrinate U producer Evan Coyne Maloney. Renowned journalist John Leo of the Manhattan Institute and Brooklyn College professor KC Johnson, co-author of Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, delivered the keynote addresses. Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and the CFN summer conference has earned a place as an annual FIRE event. Organizing for 2009’s conference is already well underway.
The CFN has also instituted new recruitment efforts, the foremost of which is the CFN incentive program. Created to encourage and facilitate students’ activism for liberty, the program provides books, FIRE Nalgene water bottles, gift cards, and other rewards for students who work hard to advance FIRE’s mission on their campuses by hosting FIRE speakers, writing op-eds, and recruiting new members to the CFN. The most active students are inducted into the CFN’s Prometheus Society and receive guaranteed acceptance to the 2009 student conference. Our top three winners—Sean Clerget of Wabash College, Amanda McCracken of the University of Alabama, and John Eubank of Towson University—received additional prizes for their outstanding work.
For students interested in activism, the CFN established the FIRE speakers’ bureau this fall, facilitating students’ ability to bring FIRE staff directly to their campuses. In its first semester alone, the FIRE speakers’ bureau arranged appearances at Towson University, Wabash College, Penn State University, Montclair State University, DePauw University, and the Lincoln School as well as at events for the Christian Union and Students for Liberty.
FIRE is also using the most up-to-date tools to get the word out about the CFN, including FIRE widgets that can be placed on students’ websites or Facebook profiles. One widget links to the Spotlight page of a school of the students’ choice, while the other links to the Speech Code of the Month school and is automatically updated every month. To put one of these widgets on your blog or Facebook profile, follow the simple directions on the CFN widgets page.
In order to reach the next generation of college students, the CFN hosted its first annual “Freedom in Academia” essay contest for college-bound high school seniors. FIRE staff reviewed over 1,500 entries and found three that stood out among many good essays extolling the importance of free speech in the university. Congratulations to our winners, and thanks to all the high school students who participated!
In the coming year we plan to continue and expand these programs, educating students and faculty members about their rights and empowering them to change their campuses. Thanks also for all the hard work our members contributed and to our donors for believing in our work.
Students and faculty members interested in joining this enterprise and participating in the above programs should begin by registering on the CFN website and keeping their eyes on the Torch for more information on how to participate in the CFN’s incentive program, summer conference, and other activities in 2009.