This week we have been counting down the top five reasons Torch readers should support FIRE in this gift-giving season. Yesterday, Amanda explored the many ways in which FIRE is educating tens of thousands of students and professors about their rights on campus, reaching out proactively to prevent rights abuses from happening in the first place. But it is an unfortunate truth that despite all of our prevention efforts, we cannot stop every one of these abuses. Today, let me tell you about how we defend wronged students and professors when violations of their rights do happen. Reason number three to support FIRE’s work:
FIRE is often the only place students and professors can turn for protection when their rights are violated by their universities’ highest authorities—and we don’t let them down. FIRE takes on and wins cases for individuals and student groups, restoring justice so that they may freely continue to pursue their interests and their academic and professional careers.
Through our Individual Rights Defense Program, FIRE defends liberty on behalf of students and faculty at colleges and universities across America. We win almost every case we take on (163 public victories to date), bettering the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of students and professors who, without FIRE, would have nowhere else to turn for help. Some of our cases are settled in private simply by FIRE sending a letter to school administrators pointing out that the law is on our side and explaining how they can do the right thing. Unfortunately, some cases, like the ones below, aren’t quite that easy and require FIRE to publicly expose the school’s offense. These are among the most absurd, unbelievable, and flat-out horrifying cases from the recent past:
- Michigan State University accused student government official Kara Spencer of "spamming" after she e-mailed carefully selected faculty members about the school’s decision to shorten the academic year.
- Binghamton University suspended social work student Andre Massena and threatened him with expulsion after he put up posters that criticized a professor whose organization evicted a poor tenant from her home.
- The Community College of Allegheny County prohibited student Christine Brashier from encouraging students to join a chapter of a gun-rights advocacy group on campus, requiring that she destroy her pamphlets and accusing her of punishable "solicitation" for trying to "sell" students on her ideas.
With your help, FIRE can continue to take on and win even more cases in 2010. FIRE does more than just provide pro bono legal assistance to college students and faculty members; we have met these people, become friends with them, seen the negative impact that unjust punishments have had on their lives, and worked day and night to make sure we could make their lives a little better by getting them the justice they deserved. None of this would be possible without you. But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some testimonials from the very people we have fought for:
- It relieved me to have FIRE intervene, and introduce those in charge at WSU to the Constitution, effectively reinstituting my freedom of speech, thought and religion, and securing my enrollment in the education program.
-Ed Swan, Washington State University
- From the very start and for a period now lasting two years, FIRE has been excellent to work with. Adam Kissel and the others were always thoroughly professional, both prompt and careful in analysis, at once judicious and shrewd in judgment, unstinting of their time, attention and effort, patient, courteous and friendly to all callers and comers, and spiritedly devoted to the cause. I can’t praise them highly enough. The stakes for Delaware could hardly have been higher, and FIRE could not have been better.
-Jan Blits, University of Delaware
- FIRE made all the difference in the world. Instead of having to face the ugly choice of either giving up my right of free speech, a severe loss for someone whose job focuses on talking and writing about controversial issues, or having my promotion blocked for political reasons, I was able to confidently assert my rights and insist that my employer, a public university, respect them. In defending me, FIRE made me feel better about myself, my role in the university, and reaffirmed my belief about the importance of free speech.
-Stephen Kershnar, SUNY Fredonia
I encourage you to renew your commitment to liberty by donating to FIRE today. I promise that we will maintain the confidence you have placed in us by your support, and we will fight with more fervor than ever in 2010.
Now that we are halfway done our countdown, we really want to hear from you about why you support FIRE. On Friday, we will share your messages (anonymously if preferred) with our Torch readers. You can send them along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, write on our Facebook wall, or tweet your reasons!