TRUMP CALLS FOR FREE SPEECH
President Trump said he would issue an executive order that would require colleges to protect views of all college students.
President Donald Trump said Saturday that he planned to issue an executive order that would help guarantee free speech at colleges and universities by putting their federal aid at risk if they do not protect the viewpoints of students of all political stripes.
The president made the announcement during a rambling two-hour speech to activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, but he did not provide any details about the possible executive order. Several White House officials did not respond to emails or telephone calls seeking additional information.
The White House did not respond to questions about when the president might sign the order.
But Trump electrified the crowd, which included many college-age conservatives, who leapt to their feet when he pledged to hold school administrators accountable for ensuring that conservatives were permitted to express their views on campuses.
As he made the announcement, the president cited the case of Hayden Williams, a young activist who was beaten up last month as he was recruiting for a conservative organization at the University of California at Berkeley – long one of the leading centers of liberal academic thought.
“If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many great young people, and old people, to speak,” Trump said, drawing huge applause.
Trump invited Williams, who was in the audience, to address the crowd briefly, calling him strong and urging him to sue the university because of the episode. Williams thanked the president for supporting young conservatives such as himself.
The issue of free speech on college campuses has for years been a cause célèbre among young conservative activists, who point to instances around the country in which conservative voices have been shunned by liberal students and professors.
Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative speaker and professional provocateur, was forced to cancel appearances at colleges, including Berkeley, after students threatened to boycott his speeches.
In 2017, at Claremont McKenna College, a private liberal arts school in Southern California, about 250 people blocked entrances to an auditorium where Heather Mac Donald, a conservative writer who has criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, was speaking.
The same year, students at Middlebury College in Vermont disrupted a speech by Charles Murray, a scholar known for his 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” which links socioeconomic status with race and intelligence.
It is unclear how Trump’s executive order would change that dynamic, though he hinted that universities and colleges would have to do more to prevent such demonstrations or risk the loss of grant money that the institutions receive from the federal government to support research.
He said the executive order would “require colleges to support free speech if they want federal research” funding.
It’s not clear how long the idea has been under consideration at the White House or whether the president decided to pursue an executive order because of the episode involving Williams, which Fox News and other conservative outlets covered extensively.
It is also unclear how much the president can withhold federal aid to colleges without congressional action. Previous discussions of that issue in conservative circles have focused on passing legislation to change the requirements for colleges to request grant funding from the federal government.
Trump made the announcement during one of the longest speeches he has ever delivered, speaking for more than two hours to thousands at the conclusion of the threeday annual convention.
The campaign-like speech touched on dozens of hot-button issues, including illegal immigration. The president accused “open border” Democrats of letting murderers, rapists and drug dealers into the country.
And more than two years after he took office, Trump again insisted that his inaugural crowd was larger than his critics have said. He bragged about the state of the economy and denounced Democrats who he said supported socialism.
President Donald Trump hugs an American flag Saturday as he arrives at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md.