After 15 years of writing policy papers and serving as experts in the media, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a small branch of the vast-spanning Koch billionaire-funded network, has emerged from the shadows to mount an aggressive lawsuit campaign targeting campus policies and forcing universities to pay for what they deem "First Amendment" offenses.
The result of the onslaught of lawsuits brought by FIRE will likely be sweeping changes in the way speech is carried out in day to day campus life - based on policies penned from "libertarian" interpretations of speech, often written by the right-wing group themselves.
The group itself is not limiting itself to speech policies, however, as we previously reported. FIRE has been working with students accused of sex crimes on campus and plans to litigate on their behalf.
The implications and the fast-moving nature of the flurry of lawsuits is a bit terrifying. The funding behind them seems to have come out of nowhere. But rest assured, it's a well-orchestrated onslaught. There's been very little coverage so far of what's happening. Vulnerable universities and colleges are folding to pressure – settling these cases out of court and permanently rewriting their school's policies – for better or worse.
This summer, FIRE enjoyed its largest Campus Freedom Network Conference (CFN) yet! In addition to great keynote speeches by journalists Juan Williams and Megan McArdle, FIRE held a student panel so attendees could hear first-hand accounts of how fellow students fought back against censorship on their campuses.
It's amazing that a journalist can have unstated ties to an organization or activities that she reports on and nobody cares about conflicts of interest, but there you go.