President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday to uphold the First Amendment on the campuses of America’s colleges and universities or risk their federal funding.
Trump signed his executive order to protect free speech and called for holding universities accountable “both for student outcomes and for student life on campus.”
“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,” the executive order says.
“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,” the order continued.
“Many [universities] have become increasingly hostile to the First Amendment and free speech,” said Trump. “Under the guise of speech codes, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of great young Americans like those here today. All of that changes starting right now. We’re dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars.”
Speaking to a group of students in the East Room of the White House, the president said that conservatives have “faced down intimidation, pressure and abuse” on university campuses. “You did it because you love your country and you believe in truth, justice and freedom,” Trump added.
“You fought bravely for your rights, and now you also have a president who is fighting for you. I’m with you all the way,” Trump said.
The text of the order is not exactly clear about how Trump intends to police universities for free speech violations. Essentially the order just sets the stage for further federal action if the order is ignored on campuses.
The president also slammed higher education for skyrocketing tuition prices and the crushing student loan debt. He also said that he intended to begin working with universities to solve the problem.
“The reason is there’s no incentive for [colleges and universities] to watch costs,” he said. “People at the heads of the institutions, being paid a fortune, they don’t care because the government loans the student the money, they pay the money to the college, and then the student graduates the college or university and they’re stuck with $200,000 in loans they won’t be able to pay for a long time.”
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