Trump Signs Executive Order Protecting Free Speech on College Campuses

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President Trump signed an executive order Thursday requiring U.S. colleges to certify that they protect free speech on their campuses or risk losing federal research funding

“We’re here to take historic action to defend American students and American values. They are under siege,” Trump said during a signing event surrounded by conservative college students in the East Room of the White House. “Under the guise of speech codes and 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 added, “Every year the federal government provides educational institutions with more than $35 billion dollars in research funding, all of that money is now at stake. That’s a lot of money. They’re going to have to not like your views a lot, right? If a college or university does not allow you to speak, we will not give them money.”

In order for public colleges and universities to qualify for federal research grants, they would be required to certify that they are complying with the First Amendment.

According to a White House official, the new order titled “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities,” focuses on a dozen federal agencies that dole out billions in research grants to colleges and universities to use their authority in coordination with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure that institutions receiving federal research or education grants promote free speech and free inquiry. It will require higher education institutions to certify that they are enforcing free speech and “promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable federal laws, regulations and policies.” 

White House officials declined to provide specific examples about how universities could lose funding and said implementation details will be finalized in coming months. However, the official stated that the order will not impact student financial aid programs.

Last month, Trump in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference proposed to sign such executive order after bring up to the stage Hayden Williams, a conservative activist who was attacked at the University of California-Berkeley in January.

“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.”

The University of California–Berkeley has been ground zero of free speech wars, as violent protests against conservative speakers led to cancellations of events of conservative firebrands like Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. In the wake of these protests, nearly a dozen states have enacted laws regarding free speech on college campuses, banning so-called “free speech zones” and requiring campuses to sanction anyone who interferes with the free speech rights of others.

The President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., praised his father’s order in a tweet earlier Thursday morning, crediting Turning Point founder, Charlie Kirk for his work in pushing this move.

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Trump Signs Executive Order Protecting Free Speech on College Campuses