FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION INC

aka FIRE   |   Philadelphia, PA   |  http://www.thefire.org

Mission

The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience - the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE's core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

Ruling year info

1999

President and CEO

Mr. Greg Lukianoff

Main address

510 Walnut Street Suite 1250

Philadelphia, PA 19106 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

04-3467254

NTEE code info

Censorship, Freedom of Speech and Press Issues (R63)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (R01)

Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups (R20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Many barely recognize today's college campuses as the institutions of higher learning they once knew and loved—and it's not because the rigor and quality of education has improved. The academy has been taken over by ignorance of and hostility toward individual liberty, and a culture of censorship and coddling has sponsored the rise of “safe spaces," calls to police “trigger warnings" and “microaggressions," and even violence in the face of unpopular opinions. While the number of severely restrictive speech codes is beginning to sharply decline thanks to FIRE's efforts, restrictions still exist at the vast majority of colleges and universities and new policy trends have begun to encourage even further regulation of campus life. Meanwhile, administrators continue to routinely violate student and faculty rights, but increasingly rely on more indirect means of abuse to silence expression and weaken due process. All of this signals a new, far more entrenched campus crisis.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Individual Rights Defense Program

The Individual Rights Defense Program (IRDP) encompasses FIRE's work to defend liberty on behalf of students and faculty at colleges and universities across America. FIRE engages in defense campaigns at both public and private universities to defend freedom of speech and expression, religious liberty, freedom of association, freedom of conscience, and the right to due process. The program provides direct assistance to students and professors through advocacy and public exposure of institutional abuses. FIRE has gained such a formidable reputation in the eyes of university administrators that just a single letter from FIRE coupled with the threat of public exposure can lead a university to change policies and end unconstitutional practices. For the same cost as a single case handled by a law firm, FIRE can successfully defend individual rights at dozens of universities. In defending the rights of students and professors from across the ideological spectrum, FIRE's IRDP uses the full range of FIRE's resources - legal and policy expertise, fearless advocacy, copious media contacts, and a vast network of willing attorneys - to resolve disputes, raise awareness, and help entrenched individuals protect their most fundamental rights on campus.

Population(s) Served

The Public Awareness Project alerts to public about threats to individual liberties on our nation’s campuses decreases the likelihood that university abuses of freedom will be tolerated. The Public Awareness Project works through multiple channels: our traditional media efforts have dramatically grown our audience reach and quality of coverage; our multimedia outreach is composed of a video initiative and a podcast, enabling us to capture stories of censorship and share vital perspectives on the fight for campus freedom; and through online and social media we are able to promote our work, resources, and news. In doing so, our team captures the stories of censorship, shares vital perspectives on the fight for campus freedom, raises the profile of our individual cases, and spreads our overall mission and goals.

Population(s) Served

FIRE’s Policy Reform Project proactively and systematically targets speech codes that violate the individual rights of both students and faculty on campus. Through correspondence with campus administrators, on-campus collaboration with student allies, and public awareness initiatives, this work has been tremendously successful, with over 170 policy reform victories won by our Policy Reform Project since its founding. As part of these efforts, our staff prepare speech code memos, coordinate national mailings, and work one-on-one with administrators to revise problematic policies in order to get institutions to affirmatively state their support for free expression—and to reflect that support throughout their policies.

Population(s) Served

FIRE’s Litigation Project works through multiple initiatives and partners to confront today’s major policy threats. Our first litigation initiative, the Stand Up For Speech (SUFS) Litigation Project, is a large-scale national effort to eliminate unconstitutional speech codes through targeted First Amendment lawsuits. We are now coordinating a new litigation which is a subset of SUFS, the Million Voices Campaign, which as FIRE working with talented attorneys from across the country to secure victories liberating one million students from unconstitutional speech codes.

Population(s) Served

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’s annual conference, summer internship, on-campus speeches, and various outreach programs teach students the philosophy of liberty and provide workshops on strategies for action.

Population(s) Served

In the fall of 2016, FIRE received a $2.5 million grant from John Templeton Foundation to launch the Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research (SOAR) project. This ambitious three-year project provides FIRE with the tools necessary to conduct polling on campus attitudes, engage in legal and social science research, and mobilize a wider audience on and off campus in the fight for student and faculty rights.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Accreditations

Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance 2016

Charity Navigator 2015

Awards

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of coalition members

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

The FIRE Student Network

Context Notes

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.

Policy Reform Project Victories

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Policy Reform Project

Context Notes

Since 1999, this project has secured 184 policy change victories affecting over 3.1 million students, as well as the countless others that will set foot on those campuses in the future.

Total Defense Victories

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Individual Rights Defense Program

Context Notes

Since 1999, FIRE's IRDP has won 267 victories at 175 colleges and universities with an enrollment of more than 2.9 million students.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE's core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

FIRE works to fulfill its mission through a number of core programs focused on defense, advocacy, and outreach.

First, FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program (IRDP) works to directly counter campus censorship by defending those individuals targeted by injustice at our colleges and universities. By capitalizing on the full range of FIRE's resources—legal and policy expertise, fearless advocacy, copious media contacts, and a vast network of willing attorneys—FIRE is able to resolve disputes, raise awareness, and help entrenched individuals protect their most fundamental rights on campus.

In addition to this direct defense work, the Policy Reform Project proactively and systematically challenges policies that violate students' and faculty members' fundamental rights. Using research from FIRE's Spotlight database of speech codes, FIRE targets policies through correspondence with campus administrators, collaboration with student allies, and public awareness initiatives. FIRE also works to uphold and secure critical legal precedent through FIRE's Speech Code Litigation Project and to support greater legislative and legal protections for individual rights in higher education through our FIRE's Legislative and Policy Project. By engaging in these multifaceted reform efforts, FIRE strives to undermine the structure of campus censorship.

Recognizing that true reform on campus also requires greater awareness and understanding, FIRE also works through education and outreach programs to encourage reform. FIRE's Individual Rights Education Program (IREP) distributes vital educational resources such as our Guides to Student Rights on Campus and engages in outreach to high school students through our “Know Before You Go" Project. FIRE also promotes public knowledge about individual rights, educates the public about the state of liberty on our nation's campuses, and encourages public scrutiny of our higher education institutions through media engagement, multimedia and social media outreach, and the dissemination of print publications.

In addition to this awareness work, FIRE directly connects with students through The FIRE Student Network and Internship Program. Through annual conferences, on-campus speaking events, and targeted outreach, these programs enlist on-the-ground support for our efforts, encourage greater student awareness of and respect for First Amendment freedoms, and inspire students to become advocates for campus liberty.

FIRE's programs seek to seize on opportunities for reform at every level: through direct defense, targeted outreach, and widespread public awareness efforts; through policy reform, legal action, and legislative advocacy; and through student outreach, education, and activism. By working at these levels, FIRE advances our ultimate mission to protect the unprotected, educate our communities, and support the power of free expression.

FIRE has a talented staff that includes highly qualified attorneys with strong expertise in constitutional law and First Amendment jurisprudence who hail from outstanding law schools including Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and Duke University. In addition to our human capital, FIRE also boasts the institutional data, research capacity, and educational resources necessary to execute our mission. Our Spotlight database, which catalogs speech codes at more than 400 colleges and universities, is the only resource of its kind, while educational resources such as our Guides to Student Rights on Campus offer the nation's only comprehensive series on First Amendment freedoms on college campuses.

FIRE also has significant networks and allies that support our goals. First, our Student Network, a coalition of more than 17,000 students, faculty members, and alumni dedicated to advancing individual liberties on campus, provides FIRE with direct access to thousands of on-the-ground contacts. Our Legal Network, composed of over 363 talented attorneys, with several members being representatives for national law firms, offers FIRE pro bono collaboration and legal assistance in areas around the nation. Our Media Network, with contacts at hundreds of publications, television programs, and radio outlets across the country and an annual average reach of 225 million readers through print and online publications, provides FIRE with valuable publicity connections that drive our public awareness efforts. In addition, FIRE's many contacts in the public policy field, on all sides of the aisle, offer vital support and expert advice for many of our efforts.

Finally, FIRE is the only nonpartisan, national organization devoted exclusively to defending fundamental rights on our campuses. Our determined focus, combined with our expertise, resources, and contacts, position us to have a significant impact at our colleges and universities.

Since our founding, FIRE has secured 390 total victories and 228 speech code revisions through our defense work, policy outreach, and legal advocacy. Our Individual Rights Defense Program has won 228 victories at 167 unique colleges and universities. Our Policy Reform Project has secured significant changes, including 136 policy revisions affecting more than 2.4 million students (and countless more yet to arrive on campus), a 26 point decrease in the percentage of schools maintaining restrictive speech codes in just eight years, and a 52% revision rate for policies highlighted through our “Speech Code of the Month" feature. In pursuit of these victories, FIRE has intervened in support of students and faculty members at 251 institutions with an enrollment of over 5.9 million individuals.

In addition to these achievements, FIRE's awareness initiatives have celebrated great success. Since 2005, FIRE has distributed over 300,000 Guides to Student Rights on Campus. Our Public Awareness Project has reached an annual average of 225 million readers through print and online publications and has secured almost 430 radio interviews and 83 television appearances since 2005. Lastly, the FIRE Student Network has expanded to more than 12,000 students, faculty members, and alumni. The Network's annual summer conference has also grown in size, boasting its largest attendance ever in 2015.

Thanks to such outreach, Student Network members have been motivated to organize reform campaigns at schools such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Marshall University, and Arizona State University, serve as plaintiffs for speech code litigation efforts, coordinate on-campus FIRE speeches, secure vital policy reforms, write articles for student publications, enlist fellow students for free speech rallies and events, and much more.

As a result of this successful advocacy and innovative outreach, FIRE has established itself as the nation's premier advocate for campus civil liberties. Nonetheless, our success is far from complete. The vast majority of colleges and universities still maintain speech codes; shocking cases of censorship continue; new threats have arisen; and far too many students are willing to accept—and even impose—First Amendment violations. As such, FIRE continues to work to defend those in jeopardy, to reform restrictive policies, to educate students and the general public, and to ultimately restore the marketplace of ideas on campus.

Financials

FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION INC
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION INC

Board of directors
as of 8/24/2018
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Daniel Shuchman

Fund manager at MSD Capital, L.P.

Harvey Silverglate

FIRE Co-Founder

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No