10 Trump executive order opinions: Free speech on college campuses

By: | April 4, 2019
A Trump executive order promoting free speech on college campuses has garnered reactions from both sides. (Photo Credit: gettyimages.com: Adventure_Photo).A Trump executive order promoting free speech on college campuses has garnered reactions from both sides. (Photo Credit: gettyimages.com: Adventure_Photo).

Higher ed institutions failing to promote free speech on college campuses will no longer receive research funding from the federal government. This demand comes from a recent Trump executive order that will not impact federal student aid programs.

Read some of the reactions from both sides below.

Agree with Trump executive order

“To the extent that today’s executive order asks colleges and universities to meet their existing legal obligations, it should be uncontroversial. … We note that the order does not specify how or by what standard federal agencies will ensure compliance, the order’s most consequential component. FIRE has long opposed federal agency requirements that conflict with well-settled First Amendment jurisprudence. We will continue to do so.” Read more.
Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

“[The order] ensures that college students are free from speech codes that stifle such debate, thwart religious expression and limit education. First Liberty Institute commends the president’s action ensuring that students are exposed to new ideas, and are free to profess and maintain their opinions on college campuses across America.” Read more.
Mike Berry, chief of staff for First Liberty Institute

“[The order] addresses an urgent problem—free speech that is increasingly threatened on campuses across the country—while reining in the potential for federal government overreach. … Federal agencies will now be responsible for protecting free expression while staying within the bounds of existing law, as directed in this order. … State lawmakers should do more to encourage universities and colleges to remove restrictive speech codes, preserve academic freedom and adopt mission statements that show a commitment to protecting the First Amendment’s right to free speech.” Read more.
Jonathan Butcher, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Education Policy for the Heritage Foundation

“[Alliance Defending Freedom] has continued to encounter massive free speech and other First Amendment violations, unconstitutional policies, and many repeat offenders. We appreciate the administration’s understanding of this problem as well as actions it has taken to help, including the briefs that the Department of Justice has filed in support of ADF clients who have stood up for their freedoms in the face of having those freedoms jeopardized.” Read more.
Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Academic Freedom

“[The Trump executive order is] a solid first step toward restoring colleges and universities to their original mission—guarding free inquiry and the free exchange of ideas. The executive order will tie federal funds to real, measurable reforms that ensure that colleges and universities allow and protect the free expression of beliefs and ideas.” Read more.
Tom Lindsay, director of the Center for Innovation in Education


Related: Freedom of expression on campus: Controversial speakers, student protests


Disagree with Trump executive order

“We continue to believe that [the Trump executive order is] unnecessary and unwelcome, a solution in search of a problem. … What remains to be seen is the process the administration develops to flesh out these requirements and the extent to which it is willing to consult with the communities most affected—especially research universities. … No matter how this order is implemented, it is neither needed nor desirable, and could lead to unwanted federal micromanagement.” Read more.
—Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education

“[The Trump executive order is] unnecessary. … We do not need the federal government to mandate what already exists: our longstanding, unequivocal support for freedom of expression.” Read more.
—Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California

“[The Trump executive order is] at worst unnecessary, and at best, redundant. SUNY colleges and universities across New York state are already bound by the First Amendment. … America would be better served if the president were to focus on more pressing issues with real-world implications, such as the affordability of a quality college education and working to reduce student debt.” Read more.
Frederick E. Kowal, president of United University Professions in connection to SUNY

“[Trump’s] concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect. … There is no reason to believe that the speech he wants to ‘protect’ on college campuses won’t both suppress speech and enable incitement. … This order also sets a dangerous precedent that makes public activities at our nation’s colleges and universities susceptible to punitive action if they don’t meet a predetermined, purposefully ambiguous benchmark.” Read more.
—Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers

“[We] share the administration’s commitment to protecting free speech on campus, and agree that our campuses are and should remain places where ideas can be expressed free of disruption, intimidation and violence. However, this executive order is a solution in search of a problem.” Read more.
—Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities