Founded in 1999, FIRE is the only organization devoted exclusively to defending the fundamental freedoms of students and faculty members on our nation’s campuses—the very place in our society where these freedoms are most crucial to the development of our future leaders and the preservation of our constitutional character. FIRE carries out this mission through several core programs focused on both awareness and activism.
Individual Rights Defense Program
The Individual Rights Defense Program (IRDP) provides assistance to individual students, professors, and campus groups whose fundamental civil liberties have been violated. This program defends individuals suffering from violations of their freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, religious liberty, freedom of association, and due process and legal equality. Working through outreach to administrators, the strategic use of publicity to generate public attention and pressure, and, when necessary, the coordination of legal counsel and action in the courts, the IRDP has secured hundreds of victories for students and faculty members since FIRE’s founding. For more information about recent IRDP cases and past victories, visit FIRE’s case archives. To submit a case of your own, click here.
Policy Reform Project
The Policy Reform Project encompasses FIRE’s efforts to proactively and systematically challenge campus policies that violate students’ and faculty members’ fundamental rights. Through in-depth research and legal and public advocacy, this project secures vital reforms to some of the nation’s most egregious speech codes. Using research from FIRE’s Spotlight Database, the Policy Reform Project targets speech codes through correspondence with campus administrators, on-campus collaboration with student allies, and public awareness initiatives including our “Speech Code of the Month” and annual speech code report. The Policy Reform Project also works to advance FIRE’s mission in the legal field, connecting with attorneys nationwide through our Legal Network, publishing legal scholarship, and filing amicus briefs in key cases. Finally, FIRE’s Legislative and Policy Project works to support these efforts by combatting government policies that threaten to erode free speech protections and by advocating for greater legislative and legal protections for individual rights in higher education.
FIRE’s Litigation Project
In recent years, FIRE has expanded our advocacy to include litigation efforts aimed at challenging some of the biggest threats to campus rights. Our Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project is the heart of these efforts. This project works on a national scale to eliminate unconstitutional speech codes through targeted First Amendment lawsuits. Building on FIRE’s overwhelmingly successful speech code litigation, the Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project coordinates legal challenges against some of the nation’s worst policies, in conjunction with reform and publicity efforts. Working in rapid succession and in multiple federal circuits, it seeks to generate additional legal precedent, widespread media coverage, and numerous policy revisions. More broadly, FIRE also engages in both indirect and direct litigation to challenge government policies that threaten to undermine our progress on campus and seriously endanger student and faculty rights. Ultimately, through litigation, FIRE is working to generate the pressure necessary to rebalance the campus incentives in favor of individual rights and free expression.
The FIRE Student Network
The FIRE Student Network (FSN) is a dynamic coalition of students and faculty members dedicated to advancing individual liberties on their campuses in partnership with FIRE. This network works to safeguard liberties on campuses nationwide by generating on-campus reform, spreading awareness among students and faculty members on campus, and petitioning administrators for change. The FSN offers numerous educational and activism resources to its members, including FIRE’s Guides to Student Rights on Campus. In addition, the FSN’s annual conference, summer internship, on-campus speeches, and various outreach programs provide students with the skills and strategies necessary for action. In addition to assisting individual students and working for reform, members’ very presence on campus helps safeguard liberty for whole campuses by maintaining long-term pressure on administrators to change immoral and unconstitutional policies and practices—and maintain policies that do protect fundamental rights. FSN members have organized critical reform campaigns; served as plaintiffs for speech code litigation efforts; written articles for key campus publications; and much more.
Public Awareness Project
FIRE’s Public Awareness Project works to educate the public about the state of liberty on our nation’s campuses, raising awareness and generating public pressure for reform through media outreach, videos, and publicity efforts. FIRE’s media engagement, multimedia and podcasts, social media outreach, and print publications reach millions of Americans every year, sparking critical discussions of key campus issues and First Amendment concerns.
Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research Project
The Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research Project (SOAR) is an ambitious three-year campaign aimed at inspiring greater understanding of and appreciation for individual rights. This project is focused on three primary initiatives: public opinion polling, legal and social science research, and outreach to high school, faculty, alumni, and public stakeholders. Through these efforts, SOAR is working to gain the knowledge and on-the-ground network necessary to effectively fight the culture of campus censorship.