President Trump Signs Executive Order on Campus Free Speech

Donald Trump signing executive order
Alex Wong/Getty
ALANA MASTRANGELO

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday requiring colleges and universities to uphold the First Amendment on campus if they want to receive federal research funding.

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday to protect free speech on college campuses. The order calls for holding universities accountable “both for student outcomes and for student life on campus,” by withholding federal research funding if a university or college does not agree to respect the First Amendment.

“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 undermining learning,” states the executive order.

“It is the policy of the Federal Government to: 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,” continues the order.

The president’s decision arrives amid the championing by Turning Point USA founder and Executive Director Charlie Kirk, and after conservative activist Hayden Williams, who had been recruiting members for UC Berkeley’s Turning Point USA chapter last month, was violently assaulted in a politically-motivated attack on the school’s campus.

“You’ve fought bravely for your rights, and now, you have a president who is also fighting for you, I’m with you all the way,” said President Trump to a group of students on Thursday, shortly before signing the executive order.

“In America, the very heart of the university’s mission is preparing students for life as citizens in a free society,” continued the president, “but even as universities have received millions and millions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech.”

“These universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of great young Americans,” added President Trump, “Taxpayer dollars should not subsidize anti-First Amendment institutions — universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech, not silence free speech.”

Charlie Kirk told Breitbart News in a statement on Thursday that the president’s executive order is an important and personal matter for him, as this type of change on college campuses has been “the primary mission” of his organization.

“I have spent the last six years of my life speaking at college campuses around the country,” said Kirk, “and I know firsthand the hostility, vitriol, and violence constantly directed toward conservative students for peacefully advocating for their beliefs, just like Hayden Williams was doing for us at U.C. Berkeley when he was attacked.”

“Today’s executive order is the culmination of Turning Point USA’s tireless work to break the left’s stranglehold on campus, a grip that has suffocated the free exchange of ideas and helped indoctrinate an entire generation to hate America, the freest, most prosperous, decent and generous country ever to exist,” continued the Turning Point USA founder.

“Though most universities today have become breeding grounds for socialism and Marxism, if soaring tuition rates are any indicator, these institutions understand money above all else. The only way to affect real change and reform is by threatening to withhold funding if they fail to protect the First Amendment rights of their students, faculty, staff, and speakers.”

Kirk, who attended Thursday’s signing ceremony at the White House, an opportunity that he described as one of the “great honors” of his life, added that “while there is still so much work to be done, today we celebrate this historic achievement.”

“I want to applaud our army of student activists all across the country who have been working for so long, largely in obscurity and often at great personal risk,” said Kirk, “I am also incredibly grateful to President Trump who has championed this executive order from day one and supported groups like ours to keep fighting.”

Kirk added, “Andrew Breitbart is smiling from heaven looking down and seeing this executive order being signed. Finally, we can hold colleges accountable for becoming islands of totalitarianism and places of widespread intolerance of differing opinion. This is a big win for ALL students!”

The lack of respect for free speech on college campuses has not been an issue isolated to only a few far-left academic bastions, but has become a problem that, at this point, is generally understood to be plaguing a plethora of schools across the country.

Just last week, the staff at Georgia Southern University called the police on its own students as an intimidation tactic in an attempt to get them to stop exercising free speech in an outdoor area on the publicly-funded university grounds. Moreover, the students were, again, conservatives, who had been outside merely trying to recruit members for their Turning Point USA student group.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.

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