On March 21st, President Donald Trump signed an executive order titled "Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities." This effectively ties research funding to oversight by federal agencies policing free speech and "free inquiry."
The announcement came after he brought Hayden Williams on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Williams is a conservative activist who was punched in the face at the University of California at Berkeley last month while assisting the university’s chapter of the right-wing group Turning Point USA, an affiliate of the Koch Network.
The Executive Order is a disastrous move to suppress free speech in order to facilitate platforms for corporatist and discriminatory speakers. Similar to the Koch-backed free speech bills we've tracked in legislatures across the country, this executive order would give a mandatory stage to extremists and the alt-right, igniting the flame of already growing racial tension on campuses.
Additionally, this measure will disproportionately affect faculty members, particularly those that are non-tenured. The Trump administration's attempts at pitting students against faculty and tying research funds from a grant won by an individual faculty member to the decisions of administrators or faculty with regard to "free inquiry" in general is punitive and nonsensical. Allowing federal agencies to define what free speech protections are allowed is immoral and bridging on unconstitutional.
If the Trump administration were truly focused on fostering a stronger sense of freedom of speech on campus, they would invest in education around the First Amendment and work with campus leaders to facilitate inquiry and open debate, instead of trying to suppress it.
We denounce the actions by the Trump administration and their Koch-backed allies and call on students and faculty leaders to educate their peers about the issue and to resist the coming regulations on campus free speech.
For questions or comments please contact UnKoch My Campus Executive Director, Jasmine Banks at jasmine at UnKochmycampus dot org