Year of Grant: 2016

Location: United States


Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a US-based nonprofit group focused on civil liberties in academia. Founded in 1999, its mission is to defend and sustain individual’s rights at colleges and universities, including freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty and sanctity of conscience.

Freedom of speech is under threat at many American campuses as students and faculty members are often censored instead of respecting divergent opinions and debating ideologies. Speech codes dictating what may or may not be said, “free speech zones” confining free speech to small areas of campus, and administrative attempts to punish or repress speech on a case-by-case basis are common issues in academia today.

FIRE’s Free Expression Campaign seeks to defeat these restrictive codes and promote greater respect for free expression within the academia environment by encouraging colleges and universities to adopt the academic freedom statement produced by University of Chicago, which has a long tradition of celebrating freedom of expression. 


FIRE will provide proactive outreach to 400 U.S. colleges that are currently categorized as ‘red light’ (those that have at least one policy that restricts freedom of speech) or ‘yellow light’ (those by virtue of their vague wording that could easily be construed as restricting protected expression).


Over a 2-year period, FIRE will encourage 20-30 schools to adopt the freedom statement and aims to welcome 10-15 new ‘green light’ schools (those whose policies do not threaten student’s free speech rights) and support 10-15 universities to move from their current ‘red light’ to a ‘green light’ rating. FIRE will also strive to record nearly 50 individual policy change victories that will positively impact thousands of people.

This campaign represents an opportunity to empower individuals to become active participants in the market place, thereby giving them the ability to maximize their intellectual potential.