In recent years, Western society has become increasingly hostile toward free speech. In the U.S., while professing nominal support for the First Amendment, more and more individuals have begun to abandon its principles in favor of emotional comfort and freedom from offense. This breakdown is especially clear on campus, where institutionalized disregard for individual rights has spawned a culture of censorship.
To combat this crisis, FIRE’s Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research Project (SOAR) will organize a campaign to inspire greater understanding of and appreciation for expressive rights. SOAR will be focused on one core theme—exposing and overcoming the new campus move towards freedom from speech. In pursuing this theme, it will seek to answer three Big Questions: Is there a demonstrable lack of understanding of and support for free speech? Are political and social movements undermining the philosophy of free speech through false ideas of “civility” and “safety”? Finally, can well-informed and well-equipped activists overcome this lack of understanding and these false ideas?
FIRE will carry out a three-part effort to confront this problem and answer these questions. Through polling, we will explore how the movement towards freedom from speech affects campus opinions. Through research, we will analyze how faulty legal, scientific, and social claims contribute to the new illiberalism. Through outreach, we will empower a strong movement to confront the campus culture.
Specifically, FIRE will conduct polls of campus attitudes; produce scholarship on free speech law, history, and science; and coordinate outreach to high school and college students, professors, alumni, and the public. These efforts will result in reports, articles, resources, events, activist networks, media, and more. In the end, FIRE aims to generate knowledge and spark activism, ultimately creating the momentum necessary to restore respect for free expression on campus.