This past week, from June 18th to June 20th, I attended FIRE's 2nd annual Campus Freedom Network conference along with about 50 other students from around the country.
From the Fire:
Thursday, attendees and speakers will gather for a reception at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7:00 p.m. Following dinner, Brooklyn College professor KC Johnson, co-author of Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, will give the opening address.
Friday morning, attendees will hear from FIRE Co-founder, Chairman of FIRE's Board of Directors, and noted civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate. Harvey's remarks are entitled "If FIRE Didn't Exist, Why We Would Have to Invent It." Following his speech, Harvey will moderate a panel on "The Philosophical and Practical Underpinnings of Academic Liberty." Panelists include David French, Daphne Patai, and Derek Shaffer.
David French is currently director of the Alliance Defense Fund's Center for Academic Freedom. He is the previous president of FIRE, a former lecturer at Cornell Law School, author of FIRE's Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus, and co-author with Harvey Silverglate and Greg Lukianoff of FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus. French led the successful litigation against Temple University's speech code in DeJohn v. Temple University in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Daphne Patai is a member of FIRE's Board of Directors. She has been an insightful commentator on education for many years and has authored and edited twelve books, most recently What Price Utopia: Essays on Ideological Policing, Feminism, and Academic Affairs.
Derek Shaffer is a graduate of and professor at Stanford Law School and Executive Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center. Professor Shaffer sat on the panel at last year's CFN conference.
On Friday afternoon, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will give a talk on "Unlearning Liberty." Samantha Harris, FIRE's Director of Speech Code Research, will lecture on the presence of speech codes on college campuses and students will attend a speech codes workshop with a FIRE staffer.
Friday evening, students will gather for a reception and dinner followed by a lecture by Wendy Kaminer, author of eight books, most recently Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU. She has been published in numerous publications including Free Inquiry, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, The American Prospect, Dissent, The Nation, and Newsweek. A longtime champion of free speech, Kaminer serves on FIRE's Board of Advisors.
Friday morning, students will attend two panels on student activism. The first is "Using New Media in the Fight for Liberty." CFN Program Officer Brandon Stewart, Claremont McKenna student Charles Johnson, and independent filmmaker Andrew Marcus will discuss the uses of new media. Brandon will discuss the implementation of new media strategies at FIRE. Charles will explain how he used blogging to expose censorship in the Claremont consortium.
Andrew has extensive experience producing independent films about issues of political and social importance. He produced Political Correctness vs. Freedom of Thought-The Keith John Sampson Story about FIRE's case at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where student Keith John Sampson was found guilty of racial harassment for reading an anti-Klan book. Andrew also co-produced FIRE on Campus: An Introduction to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and FIRE in Action: Valdosta State University with Evan Coyne Maloney, maker of Indoctrinate U. Andrew will discuss the use of video in the struggle for liberty on campus.
The last session of the conference will feature students with intimate knowledge of the fight for liberty on campus. Alex Kindell of Northern Kentucky University led a student protest against new university regulations to forbid chalking and indoor demonstrations. Her work led to more speech-friendly chalking and protest policies, including the elimination of campus "free speech zones."
Alyssa Koser bravely spoke out against the University of Delaware Residence Life Program and helped defend the distribution rights of an independent student newspaper at the university. Her courageous actions helped to bring light to the University of Delaware's coercive ResLife program and vindicate the rights of her fellow students.
Chris Lee, formerly a student at Washington State University, was censored by the university administration when it paid for students to attend and disrupt a showing of Chris's play "Passion of the Musical," a satire of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ." FIRE wrote to the administration twice and publicized this unusual and egregious incident of repression, eventually leading to a victory for free speech and a promise that the university would punish students who disrupted any more of Chris's plays.
I learned quite a lot about free speech on campuses from the conference, along with gaining many contacts to work with in the future.
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