“institutions of higher education have demonstrated repeatedly that they are staunch supporters of the First Amendment”
Professor Michele S. Moses teaches education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She argues that higher education is fully committed to free speech and that Trump’s executive order misses the point.
She writes at Inside Higher Ed:
President Trump Misses the Point
President Trump is focusing on the wrong problem. He announced Saturday that he is planning to issue an executive order that would punish colleges and universities that “do not support free speech” by denying them federal research funds. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump said, “If they [institutions of higher education] want our dollars and we give them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people to speak.”
This was prompted by an incident where a man (who is not a student) was on the University of California, Berkeley’s campus praising Trump and another man (also not a student at Berkeley) punched him.
Unfortunately, Trump’s response is wrongheaded. Like many others, the president mistakenly criticizes colleges and universities for not protecting free speech, when in fact, institutions of higher education have demonstrated repeatedly that they are staunch supporters of the First Amendment, as well as of related core values such as academic freedom and the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Colleges and universities actually are crucial allies in the promotion and protection of not only free speech, but also the open exchange of ideas and dialogue across difference.
The mistake that Trump and others make is to assume that to protect freedom of speech, campus leaders and faculty have to allow people on campus to say whatever they want. Valuing free speech does not have to come at the expense of students’ and faculty’s pursuit of knowledge and truth, a (some might say the) fundamental mission of higher education. Campus leaders can lean on their campus’s mission and on academic freedom to champion both truth and free speech on campus.
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