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Celebrating One Year of ‘The Torch’

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

One year ago this month, FIRE launched The Torch as a decisive step into the daily debate over civil liberties on campus. The blog format has proved to be a great forum for FIRE staff members to introduce and follow up on FIRE cases, discuss current legal and policy issues affecting campus rights, point out interesting articles and other blog posts, and present FIRE’s reflections on campus controversies that have not been adopted as FIRE cases.

We are especially proud of the scrutiny of misguided campus policies that has been generated by The Torch’s “Speech Code of the Month” feature—indeed, the buzz resulting from our denunciation of Albertson College’s speech code led directly to the favorable revision of that code. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” and with The Torch we have brightened the glare of publicity—and sharpened its focus.

Contributors to The Torch have expanded on many of the themes and arguments we briefly cite in our press releases and positions on specific cases or incidents. For example, the recent William Paterson University case launched a missive on the moral outrage of false sexual harassment charges, the photograph scandal at Penn provoked a reminder of the importance of equal rights and due process, and the hullabaloo surrounding remarks made by (soon to be ex-) President Larry Summers of Harvard University provided context for our steadfast insistence that the proper response to speech that one finds distasteful or offensive is more speech, not censorship.

Serial posts to The Torch have strengthened pressure on and prolonged attention to the organizations and schools whose double standards we find particularly galling, such as the ongoing travesty of justice occurring at Occidental College in Los Angeles and the hypocrisy of Phi Beta Kappa’s refusal to confront the speech codes that prevail at many of its member institutions.

In short, during this important first year of The Torch, we have undertaken to enrich and enliven the website’s content with compelling and novel coverage of the issues we face. Ever since we ignited The Torch, we have seen a steadily growing readership that has increased along with the overall traffic to FIRE’s website. FIRE deeply appreciates the overwhelmingly positive response to The Torch in its first year. We have immensely enjoyed engaging the insightful comments and constructive criticism sent to us by our dedicated readers. Keep reading as we continue to explore the uses of this feature of the website for many more years to come.

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