Trump to Universities: Support 1st Amendment or Lose Research Funds

President Trump says he will sign an executive order withholding federal funds for universities that do not support free speech.

President Trump, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said colleges and universities receiving billions of federal dollars for research must support the First Amendment or lose funding.

An article in Inside Higher Ed stated that the president did not elaborate on how his executive order would function or how institutions would document support for free speech.

The president was accompanied at the podium by Hayden Williams, who was attacked while recruiting for a conservative grassroots organization at the University of California-Berkeley. Trump said that Williams should sue the university and the state of California. “He took a hard punch in the face for all of us. We can never allow that to happen.”

Here is a video of the attack:

Williams and the man who allegedly attacked him–Zachary Greenberg–are not students at Berkeley. IHE noted that Williams had permission to be on campus expressing his views.

CNN reports that Greenberg, arrested and booked in the assault, reportedly was upset by a  sign that stated “Hate Crime Hoaxes Hurt Real Victims,” an apparent reference to “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who has been charged with disorderly conduct.

Inside Higher Ed cited Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, who noted that higher education supports free speech and academic freedom because both are fundamental to the learning environment.

Hartle questioned whether religious institutions would lose funding if they denied speakers challenging their doctrines and also criticized Trump for attacks on others exercising free speech, including former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. 

Living Media Ethics describes the First Amendment in several chapters, including a historical section on how Constitutional framers envisioned its use in free society.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison, who drafted the rights, wanted another check on the balance of power between the government branches and states. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights did that perhaps more than the other nine, clearly stating what legislators can and cannot do: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The people’s “first right” actually was five: freedom of or from religion, free speech, free press, assembly and petition.

From a historical perspective, Madison’s notion of “balance” and “check on powers of government” also are core principles that define news media, in particular, in holding elected officials accountable. That is why journalism is sometimes referred to as “The Fourth Estate,” checking the power of the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government.

At the CPAC rally and in campaign appearances, President Trump has called the news media “the enemy of the people.” He also noted, “Nobody loves the First Amendment more than me,” defending his attacks on the media as his own fundamental free speech right.

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