Trump to colleges: Back free speech or lose funds

Associated Press


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

The new order directs federal agencies to ensure that any college or university receiving research grants agrees to promote free inquiry and to follow federal rules and regulations supporting free speech.

“We will not stand idly by and allow public institutions to violate their students constitutional rights. If a college or university doesn’t allow you to speak we will not give them money it’s very simple”, Trump said at a White House signing ceremony. “Taxpayer dollars should not subsidize anti-First Amendment institutions.”

Trump’s action follows a growing chorus of complaints from conservatives who say their voices have been stifled on college campus. Joining Trump at the ceremony were three students who said they were challenged by their schools while trying to express views against abortion or in support of their faith.

Under the order, colleges that want to tap into more than $35 billion a year in federal research and educational grants will have to certify that they protect free speech.

For public universities, that means agreeing to uphold the First Amendment, which they’re already required to do. Private universities, which have more flexibility in limiting speech, will be required to commit to their own institutional rules.

The order covers research and educational grants from a dozen agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA. It does not jeopardize federal financial aid that the Education Department sends to schools to cover students’ tuition.

Enforcing the order will be left to federal agencies that award research and educational grants, along with the Office of Management and Budget.

Separate from the free speech requirement, the order also calls for several measures meant to promote transparency in the student loan industry and in how well colleges prepare students.