The University of Chicago announced earlier this month that it had received its second largest donation ever — a $125 million gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund to UChicago’s department of economics. In a statement, Griffin explained that part of his reasoning for the gift was his pride in supporting “a university so fundamentally committed to free expression, fierce debate, and intellectual pursuit.”
As FIRE supporters know, the University of Chicago is home to the gold standard of free speech policy statements, the Chicago Statement on Free Expression, which we endorsed upon its introduction in 2015. FIRE commends Mr. Griffin for recognizing the university’s principled stance in such an impactful way.
Griffin’s gift is just another reminder of the powerful role that alumni and donors can play in the fight for free expression on campus. Whether it’s by donating to those institutions that respect free speech, or withholding funds from those that don’t, you can remind your alma mater that its stance on free expression affects its reputation — and its bottom line.
Just ask the donor whose son attended a powerhouse southern school who redirected her annual contribution to FIRE. By hitting the school where it hurt most — its wallet — this donor singlehandedly pressured the school to work with FIRE to remedy its restrictive policies and, ultimately, earn FIRE’s highest, “green light” speech code rating.
One person really can make a difference.
That person can be you.
With the giving season right around the corner, your alma mater may contact you asking for support. If you are part of the community of concerned alumni around the country who can’t, in good faith, give to a school that maintains restrictive policies or illiberal practices, this is the perfect time to encourage them to change course. One of the most effective ways you can do this is by re-directing your gift to FIRE. When you donate, just tell us in the comments box what school you are donating in lieu of, and we’ll handle the rest.
First, we’ll notify the leadership of your chosen school that they won’t earn your charitable support again until they restore individual liberty on campus. Whether we use your name or not is up to you. Then, we’ll follow up with a printout of your designated school’s Spotlight database entry, a copy of FIRE’s Correcting Common Mistakes in Campus Speech Policies booklet, and our latest Spotlight on Speech Codes report. Finally, our staff will offer to work directly with your school — free of charge — to revise its problematic policies and restore free speech on campus.
But you can do even more: Please consider writing your alma mater to inform them that you support for the Chicago Statement and to ask that they do the same. Furthermore, use FIRE’s new “take action” platform to urge your school to changes its policies and earn a green light rating. To find this exciting new activism tool, simply look up your school in FIRE’s Spotlight Speech Codes Database and fill out the widget at the top of the school’s Spotlight page to directly contact your school about its problematic policies. You may even be pleasantly surprised to find that the school you had in mind is already on our list of green light schools or has adopted or endorsed the Chicago Statement, in which case you should take a moment to let them know how much you appreciate their commitment to safeguarding liberty for their students and faculty.
Don’t support a school that doesn’t support free speech. Your 100 percent tax-deductible gift will help FIRE effect meaningful and lasting change at the school that you care about most. Help us in the fight against speech codes by donating to FIRE today!
We're joined by First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza and British journalist Brendan O'Neill to discuss the state of free speech in the United States and Europe. Randazza is a First Amendment attorney and the managing partner at Randazza...