The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of liberty.
The Faculty Legal Defense Fund (FLDF) is FIRE’s program tailored to offering “first responder” assistance in protecting the freedom of expression and academic freedom held by faculty members at public colleges and universities. This narrower focus seeks to provide legal help—at no cost to faculty members—by connecting them, where needed and appropriate, to experienced counsel in their area who are in our network of pre-screened and pre-selected participating attorneys.
When referrals are made, FLDF pays the lawyer’s fees directly, with the goal of quickly and efficiently resolving disputes related to free expression and academic freedom in favor of the faculty member.
How FLDF works
Public college and university faculty who face a threat of sanction by their institution or have been punished for expressive activity—whether it’s instruction, scholarship, or speaking on issues of public concern—can submit matters for FLDF consideration. They can do so through FLDF’s dedicated 24-hour Hotline at 254-500-FLDF (3533), or submit a case online. Our staff quickly review the matter and, if it falls within FLDF’s mandate, connect the faculty member with one of the experienced nearby lawyers in the FLDF network for assistance.
The attorney will engage the faculty member directly as a client, then work with them through initial legal efforts such as advising on possible courses of action and trying to help resolve disputes with the institution or administrators. Funds from FLDF pay the legal fees for these initial steps.
If substantial further legal work appears warranted, including that the matter may require resolution in court, the attorney may apply on the faculty member’s behalf to FLDF’s Litigation Committee for further funding. If the matter is approved, FLDF may pay the legal fees for the litigation (or other further dispute resolution) needed to seek a positive outcome for the faculty member.