Friday, March 22, 2019

President Trump Issues Executive Order On Campus Free Speech

President Trump yesterday signed Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities. (Full text). In lengthy remarks (full text) delivered by the President at the signing ceremony for the Executive Order, Trump emphasized the protection of religious speech.  He  introduced three students at the ceremony.  One, the president of Students for Life at Miami University, was required to post "trigger warnings" about a display of wooden crosses representing lives of the unborn. Another student from the University of Nebraska reported she was cursed at by staff and an instructor while standing at a table representing a conservative campus group. A third student from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College was told she was restricted to the campus free speech zone to hand out Valentine cards with messages such as "You are special" and "Jesus loves you."

President Trump said in part:
Today, we are delivering a clear message to the professors and power structures trying to suppress dissent and keep young Americans — and all Americans, not just young Americans like Ellen and Kaitlyn and Polly — from challenging rigid, far-left ideology.  People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others — we don’t want to censor others — they welcome free, fair and open debate.  And that’s what we’re demanding.
Under the policy I am announcing today, federal agencies will use their authority under various grant-making programs to ensure that public universities protect, cherish — protect the First Amendment and First Amendment rights of their students, or risk losing billions and billions of dollars of federal taxpayer dollars.
The Executive Order itself, however, is vaguer, saying:
It is the policy of the Federal Government to: (a)  encourage institutions to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate, including through compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions;....
To advance the policy described in subsection 2(a) of this order, the heads of covered agencies shall, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, take appropriate steps, in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment, to ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.
Much of the Executive Order is devoted to other issues-- primarily transparency regarding the cost of college and student borrowing.