Trump addresses concerns on US campuses
On March 21, the Trump Administration signed an executive order aimed at protecting free speech on college campuses across the country. Specifically, the executive order seeks to make the amount of funding and support available to American universities contingent on their respective commitments to creating an environment that guarantees the right to “free inquiry.”
Without initially providing any details, President Trump first suggested that he would sign such an executive order in early March at the Conservative Political Action Committee in Maryland. In his speech, he cited the case of a UC Berkeley student who was assaulted on campus for recruiting members for The Leadership Institute, a conservative student organization, highlighting the need for the executive order.
In recent years, the topic of free speech on college campuses has been a controversial one, especially among conservative-minded students. And, being such a notably diverse and non-traditional school, CU Denver is no exception.
A video from February, which shows a student on the Auraria Campus confronting a conservative student organization, Turning Point USA, is only another addition to the ongoing saga of students being harassed for their political leanings. In the now viral video, the student can be heard calling Turning Point members “fascists” and further suggesting that they should be “put in re-education camps.”
“This executive order is the best thing to happen to higher education in a long time,” Laci Williams, President of the CU Denver chapter of Turning Point USA and the founder of the conservative women’s magazine Expressions, says.
“Universities do not like conservative or Libertarian ideas, and they will stop at nothing to make sure we are silenced,” she adds. “Heck, they already do. We aren’t even allowed to stand in front of our table indoors to ask people what they think about conservative ideals, even when we approach people with reasonable questions in a normal voice. It’s not harassment, it’s free speech.”
While the move has been welcomed by some, there remains considerable cause for skepticism among others, even among those who support and defend free speech in principle.
“I don’t think President Trump cares about free speech or campus climate,” Dr. Sasha Breger Bush, who teaches Logic of Political Inquiry and International Political Economy in CU Denver’s political science department, says. “He cares about wealth and power and is willing to distort political debates to serve his interests. This executive order is just another to add to an already very long list of similar manipulations.”
Others have more eminent gripes with the executive order. Erwin Chermerinsky, the Dean of Berkeley Law, and Howard Gillman, the Chancellor of UC Irvine, wrote an op-ed in the LA Times arguing that the executive order will not only fail to protect free speech on campus but further suggesting that it is even “unconstitutional.”
As it currently stands, very few details have been unveiled as to what the executive order entails, and the specific policy implications on American campuses are still pending.