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The FIRE Faculty Network conference is back for 2021 and now taking proposals!

FIRE Faculty Network conference

Among the difficult decisions FIRE made in 2020 was the postponement of our annual faculty conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially with all that the last year in higher education has given us to discuss, we’re excited to announce that the conference is returning this fall and will take place in downtown Chicago from Oct. 14-16. Sessions will take place at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center. FIRE is currently accepting proposals for presentations from faculty and graduate students examining issues related to free speech and academic freedom.

FIRE aims for our conference to bring together a group of faculty from a wide range of disciplines and to have that diversity represented in the presented work, so we encourage faculty in all fields to apply. Additionally, FIRE welcomes and encourages research taking a variety of approaches to its chosen subject. Presentations at previous conferences have included quantitative studies, law review articles, and critical essays, to name just a few approaches.

As with previous years, faculty whose proposals are selected for presentation will receive an honorarium of $3,000, in addition to reimbursement for travel and lodging, for completing and presenting their papers at this year’s conference. The deadline to submit proposals is May 31, 2021, and we encourage interested faculty to submit early for the best chance at consideration. FIRE will open the general attendee application later in the spring.

As we note in the call for proposals, we’re particularly interested this year in papers addressing some of the major systemic issues affecting academic freedom that have come to the fore over the past year, among them the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on free speech and academic freedom, the issues raised by universities’ reliance on virtual education, and the calls for institutional change and related censorship concerns prompted by last year’s nationwide protests against racial inequality and violence by law enforcement. 

We’re still quite conscious of the evolving public health landscape and will adapt accordingly. While we’re hopeful that the situation should improve enough for us to have at least a mostly normal conference experience, we’re planning to give Faculty Network members the ability to watch proceedings digitally. One way or another, we’re committed to presenting our conference in 2021, and we will make sure to keep supporters updated.

For more details, and for the complete text of our call for proposals, please visit our conference page. Faculty interested in presenting at or attending the conference are highly encouraged to join FIRE’s Faculty Network, through which they’ll receive conference updates as well as information about new FIRE tools and resources.

We’re excited to be heading back to Chicago this fall, and we hope to see you there! If you have any questions about submitting proposals or attending the conference, please contact us at

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