President Trump signed an executive order Thursday afternoon focused on improving transparency and promoting free speech on college campuses. It is part of a largely symbolic gesture to the President’s conservative base announced at a conference for conservative activists earlier this month.
“We’re here to take historic action to defend American students and American values. They are under siege,” Trump said during a signing event at the East Room of the White House.
“Every year the federal government provides educational institutions with more than $35 billion dollars in research funding, all of that money is now at stake. That’s a lot of money. They’re going to have to not like your views a lot, right?” Trump said. “If a college or university does not allow you to speak, we will not give them money.”
This Executive Order is part of the President’s vision of “making higher education more transparent and holding institutions more accountable.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who attended the signing, said the executive order “demonstrates this administration’s commitment to supporting and empowering students with meaningful resources as they pursue their life-long learning journeys and future careers.”
The President first announced his intention to sign an executive order on the issue at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month.
“Today, I am proud to announce that I will be very soon signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research funds,” Trump said then, adding that if schools do not comply, “it will be very costly.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group focused on freedom of speech and religion in academia, said in a statement that the executive order “should be uncontroversial.”
“FIRE will watch closely to see if today’s action furthers the meaningful, lasting policy changes that FIRE has secured over two decades — or results in unintended consequences that threaten free expression and academic freedom,” the statement said. “We note that the order does not specify how or by what standard federal agencies will ensure compliance, the order’s most consequential component. FIRE has long opposed federal agency requirements that conflict with well-settled First Amendment jurisprudence. We will continue to do so.”