The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) launched an effort this week to protect campus free expression around the globe.
FIRE, a non-profit activist group based in Philadelphia, announced on Tuesday that it will be launching a consolidated effort to protect campus expression at universities and colleges around the globe.
The program was inspired by the lack of free expression principles at dozens of universities around the world, many of which located in countries that do not protect speech rights.
In a statement, FIRE Senior Program Officer Sarah McLaughlin lamented the fact that many students around the globe aren’t afforded free speech protections on their college campuses. “Unfortunately, strong free speech protections are not available in much of the world, and now is the time for universities with partnerships in unfree nations to plan for the possibility — or likelihood — of threats to the rights of their community members,” McLaughlin said.
“FIRE’s Home and Abroad Commitment addresses important issues that have been overlooked in universities’ expansions to other countries,” McLaughlin added. “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.”
Students and citizens in China must tread lightly when criticizing their own government. Several reports have alleged that Brazilian military recently conducted a confiscation of far left texts from 20 colleges and universities in the country. Malaysia recently proposed a law that would ban criticisms of its monarchy. Those who violate the proposed Malaysian law, if it were to become law, would face criminal penalties.
FIRE’s new program has the potential to draw attention to some of these speech restrictions around the globe. However, it is important that groups like FIRE continue to focus their efforts on the domestic speech issues that rage on here on American campuses.