Political Editors / Mar. 8, 2019

Is Trump’s Free Speech EO a Good Idea?

His proposed order oversteps executive authority and creates sketchy future precedent.

When President Donald Trump addressed the crowd at CPAC last weekend, he announced that he would be signing an executive order “requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars.” This announcement came on the heels of an incident on the UC Berkeley campus, where a young conservative activist, Hayden Williams, was attacked and punched in the face while recruiting college students to join the conservative organization Turning Point USA. “If they want our dollars — and we give it to them by the billions — they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak,” said Trump.

Trump hit upon a sore subject for many conservatives: the ongoing attempt by many American universities to silence and limit conservative voices on campuses all across the country. It’s a very real problem that has been repeatedly documented by many, including The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, himself a frequent target of leftist protests and abuse.

However, while we respect the president’s desire to protect the free-speech rights of all Americans, especially where those rights are being systematically and sometimes violently attacked, his proposed executive order runs into the realm of overreach. Unlike instructing executive agencies as to how and where to spend money based on an emergency declaration, President Trump has no authority to determine policies at our nation’s universities. One of the many problems with federal funding is that it comes with so many strings. But Trump is proposing a rope. Instead, he should do the constitutional thing: Work to cut off funding altogether.

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