“These ideas are dangerous.”
President Donald Trump announced Saturday while speaking at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference his intention to sign an executive order, which would require universities seeking federal funding for research to commit to supporting free speech.
“Today I’m proud to announce that I will be very soon signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars,” Trump said to an assembled crowd of CPAC attendees.
“We reject oppressive speech codes, censorship, political correctness and every other attempt by the hard left to stop people from challenging ridiculous and dangerous ideas. These ideas are dangerous,” he added. “Instead we believe in free speech, including online and including on campus.”
Before making the announcement, Trump brought conservative activist Hayden Williams onto the CPAC stage. Williams was the victim of a brutal assault by a 28-year-old former University of California, Berkeley employee named Zachary Greenberg. Video footage of the attack, which went viral last week, outraged many on the right and led to accusations that major media outlets were ignoring the assault because it had been perpetrated against a conservative.
“If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak. Free speech. If they don’t, it will be very costly,” Trump said.
An ongoing debate surrounding an alleged lack of viewpoint diversity on college campuses has raged for years now. While it’s been mostly conservatives spearheading accusations that universities actively suppress perspectives that don’t fit within a liberal or progressive framework, some liberals, such as NYU Stern professor Jonathan Haidt and former Evergreen College professor Bret Weinstein, have expressed sympathy for the cause. Haidt co-founded the non-partisan Heterodox Academy with the specific aim of combatting the lack of viewpoint diversity on college campuses.
“The needs, priorities and expectations among new cohorts of students are evolving — even as the political climate in the United States (and beyond) has grown increasingly polarized and toxic,” reads a statement on the Heterodox Academy’s website. “The result is a highly-combustible campus environment. Professors and students alike describe the toll self-censoring and the ever-present threat of social or bureaucratic censure have taken on learning, discovery, and growth.”
Trump’s plan to deny colleges that fail to demonstrate a commitment to free speech appears to be long in the making. “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” he tweeted in February of 2017.