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 Controversies

College Free Speech Rankings

FIRE publishes an annual list of the "worst colleges for free speech in America".[3]

"Worst College" Cases FIRE took on in 2020 include:[4]

  • defending a law professor who used a hypothetical in an exam where a person in a discrimination case says they are called "a ‘n____’ and ‘b____’ (profane expressions for African Americans and women)."
  • defending a pharmacological student who tweeted sexually explicit lyric ideas for a remix to Cardi B's and Meghan Thee Stallion's song "WAP"
  • defending a professor who asked students to weigh the Colombian Exchange's positive effects on biodiversity with the negatives of colonization and slavery.
  • defending a professor who tweeted in response to the 2020 Vice Presidential debate, "the moderator needs to talk over Mike Pence until he shuts his little demon mouth up."
  • defending a professor who said the "n-word" during a class discussion about why it was inappropriate to use the word
  • defending a student kicked out of dorms after calling a college staffer an "asshole" who was "on some kind of a power trip"
  • defending a student suspended for an Instagram post which showed him holding a legally-owned gun off campus
  • defending a student journalist threatened after her article in a student newspaper criticized the college for mishandling coronavirus
  • challenging a college's refusal to recognize Students for Justice in Palestine as a student group
  • challenging a college's attempt to silence medical faculty from sharing information about COVID-19 without prior permission
  • challenging a college's cancellation of an event which featured a band with an openly gay singer

Disinvitation Database

FIRE has a database documenting attempts to disinvite speakers from college campuses. The database describes which issues caused each disinvitation attempt, whether the attempt succeeded, and whether the attempt came from the political left or right of the speaker.[5]

Right-Wing Connections

FIRE is a former member of the State Policy Network, a group of right-wing think tanks and other politically-active nonprofits.

FIRE was a sponsor of Turning Point USA's 2017 "Student Action Summit".[6][7]

Connection to Conservative Dark Money Groups, Collaboration with Hate Group Alliance for Defending Freedom

FIRE has received millions of dollars in contributions from politically-active conservative nonprofits, including over $3.4 million from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, over $3.4 million from Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust, over $1.8 million from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, over $1.3 million from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, over $1 million from the Searle Freedom Trust, and over $1 million from the Stand Together Trust.

Progressive watchdog organization Media Matters included FIRE in a 2017 piece describing how groups funded by right-wing billionaires and dark money organizations influence college campuses. Media Matters says "FIRE has partnered with anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom for some of these cases. It has also frequently weighed in on sexual misconduct cases, arguing that the definition of sexual harassment should not include 'large amounts of constitutionally protected expression, such as any unwanted "sexual comments, gestures, jokes, or looks,"' and defended campus organizations that use hateful rhetoric or seek to exclude potential group members based on sexual orientation. Recently, FIRE took up the cause of defending student groups that did not want to pay extra security costs for hosting serial harasser Milo Yiannopoulos on his campus speaking tour, during which he engaged in targeted public harassment of individual students."[8]

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.[9]

According to Campus Reform, a project of the Leadership Institute, FIRE disagrees in part with AAUP and supports the Free Speech Bills.[10]

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."[11]

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."[12] 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."[12]

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."[13]

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.[14]

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." [11]

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 millions in funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, and the Stand Together Trust. (See below)

Koch Wiki

Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.

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 is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:

  • Adolph Coors Foundation: $95,000 (2014-2018)
  • Allan S Gordon Foundation: $10,000 (2017-2018)
  • American Endowment Foundation: $36,377 (2016-2017)
  • Aspen Community Foundation: $30,000 (2017)
  • Atlas Network: $35,441 (2011, 2016)
  • Austin Community Foundation For The Capital Area: $99,000 (2010-2012)
  • Bader Family Foundation $3,468,500 (2010-2012, 2014-2018)
  • Betty T And David M Schneider Foundation: $1,000 (2018)
  • Bradley Impact Fund: $190,000 (2013-2019)
  • Campbell Family Foundation: $1,000 (2017)
  • Carter Chapman Shreve Family Foundation: $175,000 (2013-2018)
  • Ceres Foundation: $30,000 (2016-2018)
  • Charles and Marie Robertson Foundation: $120,000 (2016-2018)
  • Charles G. Koch Foundation: $3,427,561 (2008-2019)
  • Chase Foundation of Virginia: $75,000 (2014-2018)
  • Chicago Community Trust: $32,000 (2018-2019)
  • Cinnabelle And Benjamin Esterman Foundation: $1,500 (2010, 2013)
  • Claude R. Lambe Foundation: $740,000 (2005-2007)
  • Colegato Foundation: $1,000 (2016-2017)
  • Corinthian International Foundation (2016)
  • Craft Foundation: $10,000 (2018)
  • Creigh Family Foundation: $5,000 (2015)
  • Dean And Cam Williams Foundation: $4,000 (2015-2018)
  • Donors Capital Fund: $1,992,500 (2012-2018)
  • DonorsTrust: $1,397,750 (2013-2019)
  • DuPage Community Foundation $157,000 (2012-2014, 2016-2019)
  • Eades Foundation: $1,000 (2018)
  • Earhart Foundation: $145,000 (2010-2013)
  • Eli And Edythe Broad Foundation: $10,000 (2016)
  • Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund: $3,490,765 (2017-2019)
  • Foundation For Individual Liberty: $10,000 (2018)
  • Frankel Family Charitable Trust: $1,000(2017)
  • Give Back Foundation: $5,278 (2018)
  • Global Impact: $6,627 (2017)
  • Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund: $8,000 (2018)
  • Harry Tuttle Fund: $6,000 (2016-2018)
  • Heritage Foundation: $25,000 (2016)
  • Howley Foundation: $5,500 (2017)
  • Jaquelin Hume Foundation: $235,000 (2001-2011)
  • Jewish Communal Fund $282,950 (2010, 2016-2018)
  • JM Foundation: $25,000 (2016)
  • John Templeton Foundation: $2,547,836 (2016)
  • John William Pope Foundation: $210,000 (2014-2018)
  • JP Humphreys Foundation $1,150,000 (2019)
  • Liautaud Family Foundation: $24,957 (2017)
  • Loprete Family Foundation: $3,050 (2016-2019)
  • Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation: $1,815,000 (2000-2019)
  • Milwaukee Jewish Federation: $15,000 (2018-2019)
  • National Christian Charitable Foundation: $4,500 (2015-2017)
  • National Philanthropic Trust: $3,025,850 (2015-2018)
  • Neal And Marlene Goldman Foundation: $188,000 (2014-2018)
  • Network For Good: $121,470 (2011-2012, 2015, 2017-2018)
  • Old Stones Foundation: $4,000 (2015-2017)
  • Pechet Foundation: $18,000 (2016-2017)
  • Pierre F And Enid Goodrich Foundation: $110,000 (2014-2019)
  • President And Fellows Of Harvard College: $23,000 (2018)
  • Randolph Foundation: $207,000 (2009-2018)
  • Redbud Foundation: $7,000 (2012, 2014-2015, 2017)
  • Richard Horvitz And Erica Hartman-Horvitz Foundation: $1,450 (2012-2018)
  • Richland Summit Charitable Foundation: $2,500 (2018)
  • Robin And Sandy Stuart Foundation: $20,000 (2018)
  • Rockwell Foundation: $29,500 (2014, 2016-2018)
  • Sarah Scaife Foundation: $1,305,000 (2012-2018)
  • Schulman Foundation: $15,000 (2014-2018)
  • Schwab Charitable Fund: $236,735 (2015-2019)
  • Searle Freedom Trust: $1,075,000 (2008-2019)
  • Serve To Lead Foundation: $1,290 (2016)
  • Silicon Valley Community Foundation: $81,000 (2013-2016, 2018)
  • Skowronski Family Foundation: $40,000 (2016-2018)
  • Snider Foundation: $805,000 (2015-2019)
  • Stand Together Trust: $1,020,000 (2018-2019)
  • Stella P Holt Foundation: $5,000 (2014, 2016-2017)
  • Stone Barrett Foundation: $1,500 (2014-2015)
  • Toll Foundation: $10,000 (2018)
  • TW Lewis Foundation: $10,000 (2018)
  • UM Holdings Foundation: $10,000 (2016)
  • Warburg Pincus Foundation: $40,000 (2018)
  • Woodhouse Family Foundation: $3,000 (2018)

Core Financials

2019[15]

  • Total Revenue: $13,740,060
  • Total Expenses: $9,463,308
  • Net Assets: $21,285,158

2018[16]

  • Total Revenue: $10,939,868
  • Total Expenses: $8,706,449
  • Net Assets: $17,365,804

2017[17]

  • Total Revenue: $12,605,246
  • Total Expenses: $8,101,665
  • Net Assets: $15,133,105

2016[18]

  • Total Revenue: $10,899,264
  • Total Expenses: $6,787,293
  • Net Assets: $10,692,284

2015[19]

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

2014[20]

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

2013[21]

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

2012[22]

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

Personnel

Staff

As of March 2021:[23]

  • Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO
  • Robert Shibley, Executive Director
  • William Creeley, Legal Director
  • Alisha Glennon, Chief Operating Officer
  • Peter Bonilla, Vice President of Programs
  • Azhar Majeed, Vice President of Policy Reform
  • Molly Nocheck, Vice President of Student Outreach
  • Darpana Sheth, Vice President of Litigation
  • Joe Cohn, Legislative and Policy Director
  • Sarah McLaughlin, Director of Targeted Advocacy
  • Bonnie Kerrigan Snyder, Director of High School Programs
  • Adam Steinbaugh, Director of Individual Rights Defense Program
  • Ryan Ansloan, Program Officer of Policy Reform
  • Laura Beltz, Senior Program Officer of Policy Reform
  • Sabrina Conza, Program Analyst of Individual Rights Defense Program
  • Tyler Coward, Legislative Counsel
  • Colin Cowperthwaite, Paralegal
  • Sonia K. Deel, Program Officer of Campus Outreach
  • Natalie Ekberg, Administration Assistant of Litigation
  • Jackie Farmer, Outreach Officer of Targeted Advocacy
  • Zachary Greenberg, Senior Program Officer of Individual Rights Defense Program
  • Greg Harold Greubel, Staff Attorney
  • Josh Haverlock, Program Associate of High School Outreach
  • Katlyn Patton, Staff Attorney
  • Lindsie Rank, Program Officer of Individual Rights Defense Program
  • Josh Smith, Legislative Fellow
  • Aaron Terr, Program Officer of Individual Rights Defense Program and Public Records
  • Mary Zoeller, Senior Program Officer of Policy Reform
  • Komi German, Research Fellow
  • Adam Goldstein, Senior Research Counsel to the President
  • Sean Stevens, Senior Research Fellow of Polling and Analytics
  • Ryne Weiss, Executive Assistant and Chief Research Officer to the President
  • Nico Perrino, Vice President of Communications
  • Daniel Burnett, Director of Communications
  • Khalia Abner, Graphic Designer
  • Nikki Eastman, Senior Graphic and Interactive Designer
  • Katie Kortepeter, Media Relations Associate
  • Chris Maltby, Production and Design Manager
  • John Merigliano, Web Developer
  • Alex Morey, Editor-in-Chief, Newsdesk
  • Tim Murphy, Digital Marketing Manager
  • Aaron Reese, Video Editor and Production Manager
  • Alyssa Bennett, Operations Assistant
  • Bailey Carr, Program Assistant
  • Kristine Chee, Program Assistant
  • Giovanni Gravano, Assistant to the Executive Director
  • Michael Maggiore, Operations Officer
  • Cait Scanlan, Manager of Human Resources
  • Bridget Glackin, Director of Foundation Relations and Donor Impact
  • Ashley Adams, Associate Director of Individual Philanthropy
  • Paul Bartow, Philanthropy Officer
  • Londyn Harry, Donor Relations Associate
  • Zoe Kuenstler, Foundation Relations Officer

Former Staff

  • Samantha Harris, Vice President of Policy Research
  • Ari Cohn, Director, Individual Rights Defense Program
  • Peyton Cudaback, Director of Human Resources
  • Gordon Danning, History Research Fellow
  • Eli Feldman, Executive Assistant to the President
  • Amy Gettlin, Development Associate
  • Theresa Glinski, Program Associate, Campus Outreach
  • Susan Kruth, Senior Program Officer, Legal and Public Advocacy
  • Brynne Madway, Associate Attorney, Stand Up for Speech Litigation Project
  • Cynthia Meyersburg, Research Fellow in Psychology
  • Kelsey Naughton, Data Analyst
  • Pamela Paresky, Chief Research Officer to the President and CEO
  • Graham Peterson, Faculty Outreach Fellow
  • William Rickards, Communications Coordinator
  • Luke Ripp, Program Associate, Campus Outreach
  • Alec Schoenfeld, Archival Fellow
  • Bonnie Kerrigan Snyder, High School Outreach Fellow
  • Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, Director of Litigation
  • Thor Halvorssen, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer

Board of Directors

As of March 2021:[24]

  • Anthony Dick, Chairman; former Supreme Court clerk for Justice Samuel Alito
  • Harvey Silverglate, Co-founder; adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute
  • John Ellis
  • Joseph Maline
  • John McWhorter
  • Marlene Mieske
  • Virginia Postrel, former editor of Reason magazine and vice president of the Reason Foundation
  • Keith Whittington

Former Board Members

Advisory Council

As of March 2021:[26]

Former Advisory Board Members

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

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

References

  1. Kelly Lack Harris '99 fights against campus censorship, The Daily Princetonian, Feb 19, 2007
  2. FIRE Mission, organizational website, accessed July 2018
  3. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Worst Colleges for Free Speech, organizational website, accessed March 12, 2021.
  4. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, "10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2021", FIRE, February 17, 2021, accessed March 12, 2021.
  5. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Disinvitation Database, organizational website, accessed March 12, 2021.
  6. Turning Point USA, Turning Point USA's Student Action Summit 2017, organizational website. Archived from the original on November 24, 2017, accessed March 12, 2021.
  7. Alex Kotch, "Who Funds Conservative Campus Group Turning Point USA? Donors Revealed", International Business Times, November 28, 2017, accessed March 12, 2021.
  8. Pam Vogel, "The Conservative Dark-Money Groups Infiltrating Campus Politics", Media Matters for America, March 29, 2017, accessed March 12, 2021.
  9. The American Association of University Professors Free Speech organizational website, accessed July 2018
  10. Toni Airaksinen AAUP calls campus free speech bills a 'right-wing' conspiracy Campus Reform, July 10, 2018
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bradley Foundation, [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Grant Proposal Record], Bradley Files 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 Colleen Flaherty Divided Wisconsin Supreme Court Backs Marquette Faculty Blogger Higher Education, July 9, 2018
  13. Bradley Foundation, [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Grant Proposal Record], Bradley Files, 2016
  14. PennToday University of Pennsylvania History Professor Alan Charles Kors Awarded 2008 Bradley Prize University of Pennsylvania April 28, 2008
  15. FIRE, FIRE 2019 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, November 19, 2020
  16. FIRE, FIRE 2018 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, November 1, 2019
  17. FIRE, FIRE 2017 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, February 6, 2019
  18. FIRE, FIRE 2016 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Nov. 2, 2017
  19. FIRE, FIRE 2015 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Accessed July 2018
  20. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 2014 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, January 11, 2016.
  21. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,2013 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, December 8, 2014.
  22. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 2012 IRS Form 990, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, November 13, 2013.
  23. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Staff,Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, March 2021.
  24. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Board of Directors,Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, March 2021.
  25. CATO Institute bio organizational website, accessed July 12, 2018
  26. FIRE, Advisory Council, FIRE, March 2021.