Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

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Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
Founded1999; 22 years ago (1999)
FounderAlan Charles Kors,
Harvey A. Silverglate
Coordinates39°56′53″N 75°09′05″W / 39.9481°N 75.1513°W / 39.9481; -75.1513Coordinates: 39°56′53″N 75°09′05″W / 39.9481°N 75.1513°W / 39.9481; -75.1513
Greg Lukianoff
Executive Director
Robert Shibley

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a non-profit group founded in 1999 that focuses on protecting free speech rights on college campuses in the United States.[1] Its goal is "to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities," including the rights to "freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience".[2]


Speech codes[edit]

FIRE opposes campus speech codes.[3] In April 2007, Jon B. Gould, an author and George Mason University faculty member, criticized FIRE's rating methods, claiming that FIRE had grossly exaggerated the prevalence of unconstitutional speech codes.[4]

Security fees[edit]

FIRE opposes the security fees some campuses charge to organizations which host controversial or unpopular speakers. These fees are charged to pay for extra security which colleges say are necessary due to the likelihood of demonstrations and disruption of events.[5] FIRE bases its opposition to such fees on the Supreme Court ruling in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement; the Supreme Court stated that "speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob."[citation needed]

Due process[edit]

The group also targets situations where students and faculty are adjudicated outside the bounds of due process afforded to them by Constitutional law or stated university policy.[6]


FIRE is composed of professors, policy experts, and public intellectuals who span the political spectrum.[7]

FIRE was co-founded by Alan Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate, who were FIRE's co-directors until 2004. Kors served as FIRE's first president and chairperson. Its first executive director and, later, CEO, was Thor Halvorssen.[8]


FIRE has received funding from the Bradley Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Charles Koch Institute.[1]


Public universities[edit]

FIRE joined with a number of other civil liberties groups in the case of Hosty v. Carter, involving suppression of a student newspaper at Governors State University in Illinois,[9] and has been involved in a case at Arizona State University where it condemned the listing of a class as open only to Native American students.[10]

FIRE sparred with the University of New Hampshire in 2004 over its treatment of student Timothy Garneau, who was expelled from student housing after he wrote and distributed a flier joking that female classmates could lose the "freshman fifteen" by taking the stairs instead of the elevator. After FIRE publicly criticized the decision, Garneau was reinstated. He had been living in his car for three weeks.[11]

In May 2007 Valdosta State University expelled T. Hayden Barnes, who had protested against the construction of two new parking garages on the campus which he saw as encouraging the use of private transportation. University president Ronald Zaccari misconstrued a caption of the proposed garages as the "Ronald Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage" as a threat to himself. With FIRE support, the expulsion was overturned and a court found VSU to have violated Barnes's due process rights.[12]

In 2008, college professor Kerry Laird was ordered by Temple College to remove the quote, "Gott ist tot" (God is Dead), a famous quote from Nietzsche, from his office door. FIRE wrote a letter to the Temple administration hinting at the possibility of legal action.[13]

In October 2011, Catawba Valley Community College suspended a student (Marc Bechtol) for complaining on Facebook about a new policy that required students to sign up for a debit card to get their student ID and grant money. CVCC decided that the comments were "disturbing" and a "threat", and used that reasoning to suspend the student. FIRE took the side of the student.[14] Charges were dropped in December 2011.[15]

Private universities[edit]

FIRE has criticized Columbia University's sexual misconduct policy;[16] according to FIRE, the policy "lack[ed] even the most minimal safeguards and fundamental principles of fairness".[17] The controversy led to the resignation of Charlene Allen, Columbia's program coordinator for the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education, whose policies were at the center of the controversy. Allen's resignation was considered in part due to FIRE's activism.[18]

FIRE criticized Brandeis University on both free speech and due process grounds in early 2008 over its treatment of veteran politics professor Donald Hindley. Provost Marty Krauss informed Hindley in October 2007 that comments he made in his Latin American politics class violated the school's anti-harassment policy. Krauss placed a monitor in Hindley's class and ordered him to attend racial sensitivity training.[19] FIRE, along with Brandeis' own Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, has criticized Krauss for never explicitly telling Hindley what specific in-class comments constituted harassing speech and for not granting Hindley a process by which to appeal the decision. According to Brandeis' student press, Hindley is rumored to have used the epithet "wetback." An anonymous student-witness, quoted in the Brandeis Hoot,[20] called Hindley's remarks "inappropriate." Other students praised Hindley's pedagogical approach as encouraging "students to face racist narratives head on" and that any disagreement "is a dispute for students and faculty to solve through rational dialogue, not one for the administration to settle in secret inquisitions."[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Capuzzi Simon, Cecilia (August 1, 2016). "Fighting for Free Speech on America's Campuses". New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2019. FIRE receives funding from groups like the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute.
  2. ^ Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "About FIRE". Archived from the original on 2008-04-01. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  3. ^ Leo, John (Winter 2007). "Free Inquiry? Not on Campus". City Journal. Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  4. ^ Gould, Jon B. (April 2007). "Returning Fire". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on April 7, 2021. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  5. ^ Bob Egelko (2009-03-29). "Campus security bills for speakers challenged". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  6. ^ Miller, John (2005-10-24). "Pariahs, Martyrs — and Fighters Back". National Review.
  7. ^ Tamar Lewin (April 24, 2003). "Suit Challenges a University's Speech Code". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-09-11. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  8. ^ Strausbaugh, John (2007-08-19). "A Maverick Mogul, Proudly Politically Incorrect". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  9. ^ "Amicus Briefs Archived 2008-04-11 at the Wayback Machine", Feminists for Free Expression. Accessed March 31, 2008.
  10. ^ Jaschik, Scott (October 7, 2005). "Arizona State Ends Class Limited to Native Americans". Inside Higher Ed. Archived from the original on 2008-08-29. Retrieved March 31, 2008.
  11. ^ Kennedy, Dan (July 1, 2005). "The Eighth Annual Muzzle Awards: Dishonorable mentions". Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved March 31, 2008.
  12. ^ Lipka, Sara (2010-09-07). "Former College President Is Found Personally Liable for Expelling Student - Students - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Archived from the original on 2012-02-12. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  13. ^ Jaschik, Scott (2008-11-07). "College Ends Ban on Nietzsche Quote, Inside Higher Ed". Archived from the original on 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  14. ^ Facebook post gets college student banned from N.C. campus Archived November 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, News & Observer, Oct 13 2011
  15. ^ "UPDATE: Charges Dropped, Unconstitutional Policy Remains". Huffington Post. December 13, 2011. Archived from the original on 2017-05-31. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  16. ^ "New Procedure for Handling Sexual Misconduct Charges at Columbia University Is Challenged", Karen Arenson, The New York Times. New York City: 5 October 2000. Accessed 27 March 2008.
  17. ^ Schifrin, Nick (October 5, 2000). "Outside Groups Attack New Misconduct Policy]". Columbia Spectator. Archived from the original on 2018-12-10. Retrieved March 31, 2008.
  18. ^ Lieberman, Tallie (April 30, 2001). "Allen Resignation Met with Surprise". Columbia Spectator. Archived from the original on 2018-12-10. Retrieved March 31, 2008.
  19. ^ "Brandeis Professor says his Right to Free Speech Violated, Boston Globe, 7/1/05". Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  20. ^ "Student Reveals Nature of Hindley Complaint". The Brandeis Hoot. 2007-11-09. Archived from the original on 2015-06-18. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  21. ^ "Why we must defend Hindley". The Brandeis Hoot. 2007-11-09. Archived from the original on 2015-09-25. Retrieved 2016-01-23.

External links[edit]