PHILADELPHIA, September 8, 2008—As the academic year rolls in at colleges and universities across the country, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) announces scholarship contests for college and high school students, Facebook.com applications and web tools to draw attention to the fight against campus censorship, and incentives for student activists.
"We begin this year more prepared than ever to combat repression at universities across the country," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "Students and professors should know that they are not alone when their rights are threatened, and that FIRE will provide them with both the support and the tools to fight back."
Two new scholarship contests: FIRE's "Freedom on Campus" student video contest invites undergraduate and graduate student filmmakers to document a free speech controversy on a college campus—either at their own or at another school—and produce a short film about it. Examples include incidents where someone has been punished because of his or her speech, where student newspapers have been stolen or vandalized, where student groups were not allowed to freely associate, or where speech was confined to a small or remote "free speech zone." The student submitting the best video will receive a $5,000 scholarship and an all-expenses-paid invitation to the 2009 Campus Freedom Network Conference in Philadelphia. Two runners-up will receive $1,000 scholarships. All winning videos will be featured on FIRE's website. Video entries should be postmarked by November 15, 2008.
FIRE's "Freedom in Academia" student essay scholarship contest invites college-bound high school seniors to write an essay about how college administrators have betrayed the purposes of a university and violated the constitutional guarantees of free expression, based on FIRE's documentaries, "FIRE on Campus: An Introduction to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education" and "FIRE in Action: Valdosta State University" (available at thefire.org/multimedia). The student with the best essay will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and an all-expenses-paid invitation to the 2009 Campus Freedom Network Conference. Second prize is a $2,500 college scholarship. Both essays will be featured on FIRE's website. All essays must be submitted by November 20, 2008.
Website "widgets" and matching Facebook.com applications: FIRE's Speech Codes widget provides up-to-date information about a specific school's speech codes. Students, faculty members, and concerned citizens can post a widget for a school of their choice on their blog, website, or Facebook.com profile. All it takes to add the widget is to copy a few lines of code provided on every school's speech code page at thefire.org/spotlight. The Speech Code of the Month widget links to FIRE's latest selection of the nation's most outrageous speech codes and automatically updates each month. Both widgets can be easily downloaded from FIRE's Campus Freedom Network (CFN) website, thecfn.org/widgets, or Facebook.com. These widgets will help students, alumni, parents, and the community spread the word about—and thereby help defeat—campus speech codes.
CFN Incentive Program: The CFN, FIRE's effort to unite students and faculty members from across the country on behalf of individual rights, has launched an Incentive Program to reward students engaged in reforming their campuses for liberty. When students recruit new members, publish op-eds about FIRE issues, or host FIRE speakers, they earn points and receive prizes including books, gift certificates, and FIRE promotional items. FIRE will induct students with the highest point totals into CFN's elite Prometheus Society and guarantee them acceptance to the CFN's Summer Conference. The CFN member with the most points at the end of the fall semester will receive the choice of either a $2,500 college scholarship or a technology bundle (see thecfn.org/benefits for more details). Second- and third-place students also will receive prizes.
"FIRE has implemented these new resources and programs to encourage wider student participation in the struggle for liberty on campus," said Lukianoff. "College and university speech codes and administrative repression, sadly, give students incentives to keep quiet about immoral and unlawful assaults on their rights. With our new incentive program, FIRE hopes to give students one more reason to take up the fight to defend their rights."
The CFN website, thecfn.org, also offers classic FIRE resources for students and faculty members including FIRE's acclaimed Guides to Student Rights on Campus series, Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource, and links to breaking news on FIRE's homepage and blog The Torch. FIRE's Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus is especially important for the new year, as mandatory orientation sessions at some campuses show little respect for the right of private conscience. Other CFN resources include networking opportunities through the CFN message board and the opportunity to attend the CFN summer conference in Philadelphia.
Interested students and faculty members should inquire about CFN membership at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation's colleges and universities. FIRE's efforts to preserve liberty across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; email@example.com
Luke Sheahan, Director, CFN: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org