President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order aimed at protecting free speech on college campuses, in an event attended by students who say their conservative views have been infringed upon.
The new order will require higher education institutions to certify that they are enforcing free speech standards in order to receive grants through the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Defense, among other agencies.
“Schools are already supposed to be following these rules and essentially each agency already conditions grants, and schools are certifying they’re following these conditions, and it will just add free speech as one of those conditions,” a senior administration official said.
The executive order to promote free speech on college campuses by threatening colleges with the loss of federal research funding if they do not protect those rights.
“We’re here to take historic action to defend American students and American values,” Trump said, surrounded by conservative student activists at the signing ceremony. “They’ve been under siege.”
“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,” he said.
Trump had announced that such an order was forthcoming at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, where he said the directive would require colleges and universities to support free speech in exchange for federal research dollars.
On stage with Trump was Hayden Williams, the conservative activist who was attacked while working a recruitment table on campus at the University of California-Berkeley. The video quickly went viral, with conservatives citing it as further evidence of the stifling and sometimes-violent atmosphere that conservatives face on campus.
“He took a punch for all of us,” Trump said of Williams. “And we could never allow that to happen. And here is, in closing with Hayden, here’s the good news. He’s going to be a wealthy young man.”