Defending student rights on college and university campuses is at the heart of the work we do here at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
Whether we’re helping students speak out on causes they care about, protecting campus journalism, or ensuring due process in disciplinary proceedings, FIRE has worked tirelessly on behalf of students’ civil liberties for more than 20 years.
Read on for a list of FIRE’s most important student rights resources.
Submit a Case
Are you a student who had their rights violated? Was your student group censored? Contact FIRE today. We may be able to help.
FIRE’s mission is limited to higher education in the United States. FIRE defends student rights at public and private colleges and universities in the United States. We will consider cases involving freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience.
In the event FIRE can assist in a student’s case, our approach may involve some combination of private or public advocacy, such as writing letters to the institution, issuing press releases, sharing the story with media outlets, or, in some cases, connecting students with legal counsel.
FIRE advocates in defense of student and faculty rights, and many FIRE staffers are attorneys; however, we are not attorneys for hire, and the majority of FIRE’s work does not involve formal legal action. While FIRE engages in litigation, our mission and obligations as a nonprofit restrict our litigation efforts to a narrow range of cases.
FIRE is proudly non-partisan. We defend Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Democratic Socialists, and those affiliated with no party at all; Muslims, Jews, Christians, and atheists; environmental activists, animal rights activists, pro-choice activists, anti-rape activists, anti-war activists, and LGBT activists; free market advocates, pro-life activists, anti-immigration activists, and anti-affirmative action activists; student reporters, student government members, adjunct faculty, and tenured professors; and many, many more. FIRE even stands ready to protect the expressive rights of those who call for censorship, though we disagree with those advocates’ goals.
Bottom line: If your rights have been violated, we will defend you. Was your student group censored? We will defend you.
FIRE Student Network: ‘Learn More About Student Rights’
For example, you will find our:
- Due Process on Campus tip sheet
“The right to due process means that fair procedures must be followed before someone accused of wrongdoing is found responsible and punished. This primer outlines rights that students should have within campus disciplinary proceedings and details a handful of warning signs that student due process rights may be at risk.” (Read more.)
- Unprotected Speech Tip Sheet
“FIRE advocates for robust free speech rights for students, but not all expression is protected by the First Amendment. [In this tip sheet], [W]e have detailed a few categories of speech that fall outside of constitutional protections.” (Read more.)
Includes information on incitement, true threats, fighting words, obscenity, defamation, harassment, and more!
- Disinvitation Database (which tracks a specific kind of campus censorship we call “disinvitations”)
- FAQ: Political Speech on Campus
Q: I go to a private college. Do I have free speech rights on campus when it comes to political speech?
Q: I’m gearing up to campaign on campus with my student organization, but an administrator keeps telling me that the school needs to “stay neutral.” What does that mean for us?
Q: Am I (or my student organization) allowed to use facility resources, like classrooms, to engage in partisan political speech?
Find those answers, and more here.
Student Rights on Campus Guides
FIRE wrote the book on student rights. Actually, we’ve written five of them. For a deep dive into specific types of student rights that frequently need protecting or defending, check out one of FIRE’s comprehensive guides. You can download the guides or order them online for free:
FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus focuses on the threat to freedom of expression posed by the imposition of speech codes, under various misleading names, on campuses across the nation. The Guide is now in its second edition.
FIRE’s Guide to Due Process and Campus Justice provides information about the appropriate and inappropriate methods by which university administrators and student judicial panels address issues of academic misdeeds and behavioral misconduct.
FIRE’s Guide to Student Fees, Funding, and Legal Equality on Campus provides a thorough explanation of the significance of student activity fees and their relationship with free expression and campus equality.
FIRE’s Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus provides a history of the struggle for religious liberty and explains how the legal and moral arguments for religious liberty apply differently on public and private campuses.
FIRE’s Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus contrasts the legitimate purposes and intentions of campus orientation sessions with current practices and effects, revealing how these sessions have evolved in frightening fashion in the hands of college administrators.
Student Rights in the News
For daily coverage and updates on current events impacting student rights: