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FIRE Student Network Conference Recap: Memorable Event Highlighted by Strossen, Balko, and Student Activists

This past weekend, more than 90 students from across the nation gathered in Philadelphia for the 2015 FIRE Student Network Conference. Set at the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, the event gave students, guest speakers, and FIRE staff the opportunity to discuss ideas both old and new, and to plan for a year of free speech advocacy at the 60+ colleges and universities represented at the conference.

The event was punctuated by keynote addresses from two of the country’s preeminent names in First Amendment advocacy: Friday night, we heard from Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU and John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at New York Law School, who discussed popular topics such as “safe spaces,” Title IX, and obscenity from her unique and experienced perspective. Saturday evening, we were joined by Washington Post columnist Radley Balko, who discussed the role of principled civil libertarians in a partisan country and the parallels between campus censorship and police militarization.

During Saturday’s morning and afternoon sessions, students heard from FIRE staff in a series of self-selected breakouts and an excellent panel discussion featuring several of FIRE’s mission-based directors and FIRE president Greg Lukianoff.

Sunday morning was all about the students: Our fantastic interns led teams in an engaging debate about common campus speech issues. Then, an impressive quintet of student activists participated in a panel discussion to share their experiences pushing back against censorship and standing up for speech.

The event was jam-packed with discussion, information, and resources for promoting individual rights on campus. As one student participant commented on the Facebook group for the event this afternoon:

It was a joy to meet so many intelligent people who didn't shy away from, but ran towards the difficult conversations. And no one got offended. It was a great experience. I hope to see y'all again next year.

You can see more reactions from the conference using #FSN15.

FIRE wants to sincerely thank our participants and guests for a fantastic event. Remember, anyone can join the FIRE Student Network and access resources like our Guides to Student Rights on Campus, speech code information, guest speakers, activism tips, and much more.

Based on the students at this conference, the future of free speech on campus is in good hands. We look forward to a productive academic year, and we can’t wait to see you next summer.

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