President Donald J. Trump has signed an executive order that demands that colleges and universities adhere to free speech requirements, or they risk losing their federal funding.
“The president strongly supports free speech,” a senior administration official told reporters during a briefing before the signing of the order.
“American institutions of higher education should support open intellectually engaging debate, which is critical to creating the next generation of successful leaders and thinkers.”
During the signing ceremony, Trump said, “We’re here to take historic action to defend American students and American values. They’ve been under siege.”
He added, “Under the guise of speech codes, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans like those here today.”
Trump Fulfils on Promise He Made to Conservatives
According to Fox News, a senior administration official said the order directs 12 grant-making agencies to use their authority in coordination with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure institutions that receive federal research or education grants promote free speech and free inquiry. White House officials have said it will apply to more than $35 billion in grants.
Public universities seeking funding would have to certify they comply with the First Amendment, which already applies to them. Private universities, which have more flexibility in limiting speech, would need to commit to their own institutional rules.
“Even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and the First Amendment,” Trump said.
The executive order is fulfilling on a promise to issue such a directive Trump made at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last month, where he said he would require colleges and universities to support free speech in exchange for federal research dollars. At CPAC, the president brought Hayden Williams to the stage with him, a conservative activist who was physically attacked while working a recruitment table on campus at the University of California-Berkeley. The video quickly went viral, with conservatives using it as evidence of how colleges have been stifling conservative views on campus.
“He took a punch for all of us,” Trump said of Williams. “And we could never allow that to happen. And here is, in closing with Hayden, here’s the good news. He’s going to be a wealthy young man.”
Finally, he referred to Hayden in promising to issue the just signed EO, “If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak,” Trump said. “Free speech. If they don’t, it will be costly. That will be signed soon.”
Conservatives have lauded the executive order. Talk show host Dennis Prager, who appears in an upcoming documentary called “No Safe Spaces,” said Thursday, “It’s tragic that in the one country that was founded on liberty–the country that enshrined freedom of speech in its foundational document–this executive order has become necessary. But, thanks to the left, it has. If President Trump can put a stop to the intolerance of non-leftist viewpoints on college campuses and help steer the country in the right direction, there just might be hope.”