su_note note_color=”#efe1a7″ text_color=”#00000″ radius=”5”]Trump signed an executive order advising colleges to respect students’ First Amendment right to free expression under the threat of losing $35 billion in federal funding. The order was issued in response to colleges and universities that have banned presentations by conservative speakers using the excuse of protecting student safety. In addition, some campuses have imposed speech codes and free speech ‘zones’. It is unclear how the new grant restrictions will be enforced, prompting concern from critics that research grants could be stripped from schools that oppose the views and goals of the federal government and the grant-giving agncies, and that research will be micromanaged.[/su_note]
President delivers on promise to punish colleges that don’t show they guarantee free speech on campus, and includes language on outcomes data and risk sharing. But it’s unclear what force it will carry.
President Trump on Thursday delivered on his promise of an executive
order that would hold colleges that receive federal research funding
accountable for protecting free speech.
However, his bombastic rhetoric in a White House East Room ceremony wasn’t matched by the modest language of the order.
“If a college or university does not allow you to speak, we will not give them money. It’s that simple,” he said Thursday.
But the executive order
essentially directs federal agencies to ensure colleges are following
requirements already in place. And it doesn’t spell out how enforcement
of the order would work.
It directs 12 federal grant-making agencies to coordinate with the
Office of Management and Budget to certify that colleges receiving
federal research funds comply with existing federal law and regulations
involving free academic inquiry. While the administration expects public
institutions to uphold the First Amendment, the order says, private
colleges are expected to comply with their “stated institutional
policies” on freedom of speech. The free-speech directive doesn’t apply
to federal student aid programs.
The document also directs the Education Department to publish
program-level data in the College Scorecard on measures of student
outcomes, including earnings, student debt, default rates and loan
And it requires the department to submit policy recommendations to
the White House by January 2020 on risk-sharing proposals for colleges
that participate in the federal student loan program.
The executive order puts extra force behind several policies the White House has backed
previously. For example, earlier this week the administration released a
report on priorities for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act
that included program-level data and a new accountability system for
President Trump has weighed in repeatedly on alleged suppression of
free speech on campuses, especially speech by conservative students.
Most recently, he announced plans
for an executive order addressing the issue at the Conservative
Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of activists and
“Free inquiry is an essential feature of this nation’s democracy, and
it promotes learning, scientific discovery and economic prosperity,”
the order reads. “We must encourage institutions to appropriately
account for this bedrock principle in their administration of student
life and to avoid creating environments that stifle competing
perspectives, thereby potentially impeding beneficial research and
The executive order had been in the works long before the president’s comments at the conservative event.
But it’s not clear what kind of teeth the order has beyond new
certification requirements for institutions. A senior administration
official told reporters on Thursday that federal agencies will enforce
it the same way they enforce existing federal grant conditions, which
colleges already are required to follow. The official didn’t address
details about how the order would be implemented.
Agencies covered by the order include the Departments of Education,
Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human
Services, Transportation, and Energy, as well as the Environmental
Protection Agency, National Science Foundation and NASA.
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