Academic Freedom

What We Defend

Academic freedom gives faculty the right to teach, research, and speak about matters of public concern without being punished — even where their views, findings, or methods are controversial. Educators on college and university campuses must be free to speak their minds, ask tough questions, and facilitate learning without the threat of institutional censorship, coercion, or intimidation. 

The United States Supreme Court ruled in Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957) that the government should be “extremely reticent to tread” in areas of academic freedom rights and political expression. Chief Justice Earl Warren held that research and scholarship “cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust,” and that students and faculty “must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.”

"The foundation of intellectual discovery": The role of academic freedom in civil society

Students raising hands in a classroom - CREDIT Drazen Zigic Shutterstock
Gavel and law book

Defending Your Academic Freedom in Court

Legal Support for Faculty

Are you a faculty member at a public college or university being investigated or punished for your scholarship or speech? FIRE’s lawyers may be able to help. 

Faculty Legal Defense Fund

Ilya Shapiro
FIRE is now my favorite organization in America. Its advice and support in those critical first 24-72 hours of the cancellation campaign against me were crucial in the pushback that ultimately allowed me to survive and thrive.

Canceled for a Tweet

When Georgetown Law suspended faculty member Ilya Shapiro and launched an investigation into a controversial tweet, FIRE came to his defense.

Read Ilya's Story

Defending Your Rights

FIRE defends the academic freedom rights of students and faculty through several core services.

Learn more about FIRE’s mission

FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus


Too many college campuses silence students who dare exercise their right to free expression. For a more thorough analysis of your expressive rights at colleges and universities, consult FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus. 

Read Free Speech Guide