Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

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Foundation for Individual Rights in Education or FIRE is a group which claims to "defend and sustain individual rights at America's increasingly repressive and partisan colleges and universities."[1][2] It is an advocate on such issues as "free speech" codes, religious liberty, due process for students, allocation of funding for student organizations, and defense against ideological indoctrination. The organization was founded in 1999 by a University of Pennsylvania professor, Alan Charles Kors. FIRE is a major proponent of the intellectual diversity movement which aims to dismantle the so-called liberal bias in higher academia.

It was formerly a member of the State Policy Network.

News and Controversy

Defense of Marquette Professor

FIRE advocated for and subsequently applauded a decision of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court siding with a Marquette professor, John McAdams who "criticized a graduate student by name on his personal blog over how she handled a classroom discussion that turned to gay marriage."[3] FIRE argued that "Marquette was wrong to fire John McAdams simply for criticizing a graduate student instructor who unilaterally decided that a matter of political interest was no longer up for debate by students."

Marquette University disagreed, stating that “A tenured professor put a graduate student’s name and contact information on the internet so that people could go after her...That’s not academic freedom, that’s cyberbullying."[3]

Association with “Right-Wing” "Free Speech Bills"

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) launched a "Free Speech on Campus" Campaign to oppose Free Speech Bills, which they say are an effort from conservative state lawmakers to "suppress dissent" on college campuses." Furthermore, AAUP argues that the bills are backed by the right-wing Goldwater Institute.[4]

According to Campus Reform, a project of the Leadership Institute, FIRE disagrees in part with AAUP and supports the Free Speech Bills.[5]

FIRE describes its advocacy on this issue as a "multi-year Stand Up For Free Speech Litigation Project, an expansive initiative to eliminate speech codes at public universities and colleges," which it argues invites "widespread abuse."[6]

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

The Bradley Files reveal that FIRE was founded with Bradley cash in 1999,

"With Bradley funding, FIRE was founded in 1999 by Bradley Prize winner Alan Charles Kors and Encounter author Harvey Silverglate to defend rights on campus to freedom of speech and association, legal equality, due process, and religious liberty. Its strategy is based on the insight that the mere threat of exposure or legal action is often sufficient to persuade universities to remedy rights violations. FIRE has successfully intervened in hundreds of disputes at nearly 200 institutions, mostly through negotiations but also through litigation when necessary."[7]

One "Bradley Prize" that Alan Charles Kors -- currently chairman emeritus of FIRE -- won was in 2008 for his "defense of free speech." It came with a $250,000 stipend.[8]

In 2014, FIRE received $15,000 for "sponsorship of the 15th Anniversary Gala." The Gala was "a dinner event celebrating (FIRE's) mission and drawing public attention to the intrusions upon conscience and enforcement of orthodoxies that are endemic in academia." [6] The

From 1999-2016, FIRE has received $1,490,000 from the Bradley Foundation for "general operations," "anniversary events," and "a special project."

Bradley Files

In 2017, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of SourceWatch, launched a series of articles on the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, exposing the inner-workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. 56,000 previously undisclosed documents laid bare the Bradley Foundation's highly politicized agenda. CMD detailed Bradley's efforts to map and measure right wing infrastructure nationwide, including by dismantling and defunding unions to impact state elections; bankrolling discredited spin doctor Richard Berman and his many front groups; and more.

Find the series here at ExposedbyCMD.org.

Ties to the Koch Brothers

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has deep ties to the Koch brothers. The organization has received funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust. (See below)

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Ties to the State Policy Network

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is a former associate member of the State Policy Network, a web of state pressure groups that drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide.

Funding

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education does not disclose its donors, but some of its funding sources are known through other tax filings. FIRE's known funders include:

Core Financials

2016[10]

  • Total Revenue: $6,359,697
  • Total Expenses: $3,658,143
  • Net Assets: $6,620,638

2015[11]

  • Total Revenue: $6,359,697
  • Total Expenses: $5,658,143
  • Net Assets: $6,620,636

2014[12]

  • Total Revenue: $7,401,750
  • Total Expenses: $4,188,282
  • Net Assets: $5,915,288

2013[13]

  • Total Revenue: $3,119,177
  • Total Expenses: $3,318,604
  • Net Assets: $2,696,607

2012[14]

  • Total Revenue: $1,807,197
  • Total Expenses: $1,179,350
  • Net Assets: $2,898,658

Personnel

Staff

As of July 2017:[15]

  • Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO
  • Robert Shibley, Executive Director
  • Peter Bonilla, Vice President of Programs
  • William Creeley, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Advocacy
  • Alisha Glennon, Senior Vice President of Finance and Development
  • Samantha Harris, Vice President of Policy Research
  • Azhar Majeed, Vice President of Policy Reform
  • Ashley Adams, Annual Fund Manager
  • Laura Beltz, Program Officer, Policy Reform
  • Daniel Burnett, Communications Manager
  • Joe Cohn, Legislative and Policy Director
  • Ari Cohn, Director, Individual Rights Defense Program
  • Tyler Coward, Legislative Counsel
  • Peyton Cudaback, Director of Human Resources
  • Gordon Danning, History Research Fellow
  • Nikki Eastman, Lead Graphic and Interactive Designer
  • Jackie Farmer, Program Officer, Individual Rights Defense Program
  • Eli Feldman, Executive Assistant to the President
  • Bridget Glackin, Director of Development
  • Amy Gettlin, Development Associate
  • Theresa Glinski, Program Associate, Campus Outreach
  • Adam Goldstein, Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow
  • Zachary Greenberg, Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow
  • Susan Kruth, Senior Program Officer, Legal and Public Advocacy
  • Zoe Kuenstler, Development Officer
  • Brynne Madway, Associate Attorney, Stand Up for Speech Litigation Project
  • Michael Maggiore, Office Administrator
  • Chris Maltby, Production and Design Manager, Sweidy Stata Video Fellow
  • Sarah McLaughlin, Senior Program Officer, Individual Rights Defense Program and Social Media Manager
  • John Merigliano, Web Developer
  • Cynthia Meyersburg, Research Fellow in Psychology
  • Alex Morey, Editor-in-Chief, Newsdesk; Program Officer, Legal and Public Advocacy
  • Tim Murphy, Digital Outreach and Alumni Development Fellow
  • Kelsey Naughton, Data Analyst
  • Molly Nocheck, Director of Campus Outreach
  • Pamela Paresky, Chief Research Officer to the President and CEO
  • Nico Perrino, Director of Communications
  • Graham Peterson, Faculty Outreach Fellow
  • Aaron Reese, Video Editor and Production Associate
  • William Rickards, Communications Coordinator
  • Luke Ripp, Program Associate, Campus Outreach
  • Alec Schoenfeld, Archival Fellow
  • Bonnie Kerrigan Snyder, High School Outreach Fellow
  • Adam Steinbaugh, Senior Program Officer and Investigative Reporter
  • Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, Director of Litigation
  • Ryne Weiss, Assistant to the Executive Director
  • Mary Zoeller, Program Officer, Policy Reform

Former Staff

Board of Directors

As of July 2018:[16]

Former Board Members

Board of Advisors

As of July 2017, the status of the Board of Advisors is unknown.

Contact Information

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
510 Walnut St.
Suite 1250
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-717-3473
Fax: 215-717-3440
Website: https://www.thefire.org
Email: fire@thefire.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheFIREorg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefireorg

References

  1. Kelly Lack [https://dfkpq46c1l9o7.cloudfront.net/pdfs/1f4529f01322e3243b84c30403444668.pdf Harris '99 fights against campus censorship] The Daily Princetonian, Feb 19, 2007
  2. FIRE Mission organizational website, accessed July 2018
  3. 3.0 3.1 Colleen Flaherty Divided Wisconsin Supreme Court Backs Marquette Faculty Blogger Higher Education, July 9, 2018
  4. The American Association of University Professors Free Speech organizational website, accessed July 2018
  5. Toni Airaksinen AAUP calls campus free speech bills a 'right-wing' conspiracy Campus Reform, July 10, 2018
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bradley Foundation, [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Grant Proposal Record], Bradley Files 2014
  7. Bradley Foundation, [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Grant Proposal Record], Bradley Files, 2016
  8. PennToday University of Pennsylvania History Professor Alan Charles Kors Awarded 2008 Bradley Prize University of Pennsylvania April 28, 2008
  9. Bradley Foundation, [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Grant History], Bradley Files, 2016.
  10. Non-Profit Explorer, [https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/43467254/201703069349300405/IRS990 FIRE 2016 IRS Form 990], Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Nov. 2, 2017
  11. Non-Profit Explorer, [https://pp-990.s3.amazonaws.com/2017_02_EO/04-3467254_990_201606.pdf?X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAI7C6X5GT42DHYZIA%2F20180712%2Fus-east-1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Date=20180712T145926Z&X-Amz-Expires=1800&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&X-Amz-Signature=0c64360c228e1a79c002c6b887c4bf25f203aed4498f3142ba2e6fc3756f00ea FIRE 2015 IRS Form 990], Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Accessed July 2018
  12. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 2014 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, January 11, 2016.
  13. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,2013 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, December 8, 2014.
  14. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 2012 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, November 13, 2013.
  15. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Staff,Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 2017.
  16. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Board of Directors,Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 2017.
  17. Reason author page organizational website, accessed July 12, 2018
  18. CATO Institute bio organizational website, accessed July 12, 2018