- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

A major educational foundation devoted to preserving free-speech rights on campus has developed a new strategy for educating students about their rights at colleges and universities across the country.
In response to hundreds of requests for help from students, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has created the FIRE Guides to Student Rights on Campus, as well as a Web site, in an effort to protect the rights of students at colleges and universities.
FIRE, a nonprofit organization, hopes the guides will become indispensable tools to challenge and end censorship, double standards, arbitrary practices and the violation of basic rights, which it says are prevalent on too many campuses.
"The prerequisite to defending your rights is knowing what they are," said Nadine Strossen, a board member of FIRE's new program and president of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The guides are part of FIRE's Know Your Rights program aimed at educating students and parents about the legal and moral status of their rights on the nation's campuses.
The guides also seek to educate administrators, trustees and college and university attorneys about their legal obligations both in private and public institutions of higher learning.
"It is a blight on us if we can't do something about what is happening on our college campuses," said Paul McMasters, board member for the program. Mr. McMasters said at a press conference this week at the National Press Club that instances of assaults on free speech and academic freedom are occurring on campuses across the country.
He said that two recent examples of abuse include some campuses establishing "free-speech zones" where students may express their opinions only in certain places, and instances such as the professor at Citrus College in California, who required her students to write anti-war letters to President Bush and penalized those who refused to do the assignment.
Board members of the program said that students are routinely intimidated by school administrators regarding their rights, and if they understand their rights, they will be better able to defend them.
The educational organization is publishing five guides that aim to protect the rights of students. They are: FIRE's Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus; FIRE's Guide to Student Fees, Funding, and Legal Equality on Campus; FIRE's Guide to Due Process and Fair Procedure on Campus; FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus; and FIRE's Guide to First-Year Orientation and to Thought Reform on Campus.
They will all be available to students free of charge and can also be downloaded from the group's Web site (www.thefireguides.org).

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