Final Thoughts: Changing the Culture on Campus

This week I survived Hurricane Sandy, a massive tree covering the entire front of my house, an intermittent Internet connection, and even guest-blogging for The Volokh Conspiracy. For my last post, I wanted to end on a positive note. First, I wanted to let you all know that I am having a book event for Unlearning Liberty at the Los Angeles Press Club on November 29. Tickets are free, but please register to attend and tell your friends to do so too. It should be a good time.

I also wanted to share some of the ways the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, where I am president) is working to positively “change the culture” on today’s college campuses to one that better understands the importance of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, due process, etc. After all, the problems I describe in Unlearning Liberty run deep.

In order to provide a much-needed basic introduction to the core concepts of free expression — something fewer and fewer high schools seem to be doing — FIRE authored a five-book series of Guides to Student Rights on Campus. We just updated our flagship Guide to Free Speech on Campus and released the new edition (available free for download) this summer. The books earned praise from Nadine Strossen, Alan Dershowitz, and Ed Meese. I hope you’ll read them and pass them along to students you might know who could use them.

But to truly “change the culture” we must stop rights abuses from happening in the first place by preparing and educating students for the challenges they will face. FIRE is trying to do this through several programs: our Campus Freedom Network of more than 5,500 students, professors, and alumni; our “Freedom in Academia” High School Essay Contest, which awards scholarship money to those students who write the most compelling essays explaining why free speech and First Amendment rights are crucial to higher education, and our work on developing, in conjunction with the Bill of Rights Institute, a curriculum for high school students that will provide them with a better introduction to the fundamentally different rights they will (or should) enjoy in college.

Even if, despite everything you read from me this week and everything I linked to, you don’t believe that there is anything wrong at our colleges and universities, hopefully we can agree that we can do a better job of developing college students’ appreciation for and understanding of debate and discourse, educating them in what their rights are and why they have them in the first place, and ensuring that the American tradition of free expression remains one of our strongest values for years to come.

Whether you support FIRE’s work or not, or even if you just want new material to argue with me about, please do check out my new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. All royalties go to FIRE.

It’s been a real hoot (somehow that seemed like the right word) to guest-blog on VC this week! Thanks for reading and for all of your comments. If you ever want to continue the conversation, you can reach me at

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