Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project is an unprecedented national effort to eliminate unconstitutional speech codes from our nation’s public colleges and universities. Drawing on our more than 15 years of experience defeating unconstitutional and illiberal campus speech codes, FIRE’s litigation efforts will reset the incentives that currently push colleges towards censoring student and faculty speech. With FIRE’s help, students and faculty will stand up for speech nationwide.

Defying a virtually unbroken string of legal defeats for campus speech codes dating back to 1989, public colleges and universities across the country routinely enforce speech codes to repress new and dissenting ideas. Speech codes restrict student and faculty speech in many ways, from “free speech zones” that quarantine expression to tiny, out-of-the-way areas, to “harassment” codes that ban “offensive” speech. Worse still, these policies are often vague and overly broad, allowing campus administrators unfettered discretion to silence a stunning range of speech they find inconvenient, disagreeable, or simply unwanted—everything from political debate to jokes, satire, and art. Because only 39 of this country’s top 450 colleges and universities are free from policies that threaten free speech on campus, an entire generation of college students has learned precisely the wrong lesson about their First Amendment rights in our free society. Sadly, FIRE’s case archives are replete with examples of campus censorship enabled by speech codes.

Stand Up For Speech will be the catalyst to end the threat of campus speech codes for good. Under FIRE’s auspices, lawsuits will keep being filed against public colleges maintaining unconstitutional speech codes. After each victory by ruling or settlement, FIRE will target another school—sending a message that unless public colleges obey the law, they will be sued.

We welcome colleges and universities that wish to avoid legal action to work with us to voluntarily change their policies to comply with the First Amendment, and several have already successfully done so. Stand Up For Speech has generated additional legal precedent, widespread media coverage, and a greater awareness of the importance of protecting the First Amendment rights of students and faculty at our public institutions of higher education.