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FIRE Launches Initiative to Protect Free Speech Abroad

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has announced a new international initiative demanding that colleges and universities protect free speech and academic freedom rights on their campuses at home and abroad, according to a press release.

FIRE’s campaign, titled “Commitment to Campus Free Expression at Home and Abroad,” calls for schools to “prioritize free expression and academic freedom in their current and future international endeavors – and stand by those commitments when challenged.”

In order to ensure that universities protect student and faculty speech rights when they enter into international partnerships, FIRE has provided a template statement for schools to adopt.

Controversies surrounding the issue of free speech on college campuses abroad have appeared regularly in recent news cycles.

Last year, Georgetown University’s satellite campus in Qatar cancelled a scheduled debate on the topic of whether God could be portrayed as a woman after intense backlash from conservative Muslims.

Cornell University suspended their partnership with Renmin University of China in October 2018 after it was revealed that Renmin had surveilled and punished students advocating for workers’ rights.

FIRE senior program officer Sarah McLaughlin believes that universities with international partnerships must do more to protect the rights of their students.

“By pledging that academic freedom and free expression will be primary considerations of future partnerships and agreements, signatory universities will make a public statement that they can be held to should they abandon it – and we’ll watch to see if they do,” McLaughlin said in a statement.

The campaign has amassed 38 signatures from professors at prestigious universities so far, including signatories like the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University.

Cornell Severs Ties With China’s Renmin University

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