Screengrab from https://twitter.com/politico/status/1108832646262591495
Widespread intolerance of ideas on college campuses that are outside the liberal catechism is pretty well documented. While there may be an objectively larger number of complaints based on speech and behavior directed against liberals, a disproportionate number of attacks are directed against conservatives. What makes this worse is that college administrators, when they aren’t actually the problem themselves, are rarely sympathetic to free speech that contradicts their shibboleths. Routinely, conservative groups are targeted for administrative retaliation and conservative speakers are disinvited from campuses when they aren’t subjected to administration sanctioned disruptions.
Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order titled Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities. The order itself is not very earthshaking. But the subtext that the President sent was simple: if you receive federal funding, the First Amendment must be allowed to exist and must be protected on campus. Period. Full stop.
These are clips of President Trump’s remarks:
Trump invited Ellen Wittman, a student and president of Students for Life, to share her experience as a conservative at a university.
"I never imagined the hostility I would face when trying to express my beliefs," the college junior said pic.twitter.com/tNnQc2WM9d
— POLITICO (@politico) March 21, 2019
President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon signed his much-hyped executive order on campus free speech — which he deemed a "historic action to defend American students and American values" that have "been under siege" on campuses https://t.co/d373sEkQz7
— POLITICO (@politico) March 21, 2019
The Politico article insists, against all evidence, that the order does nothing more than tell universities to do what they are doing right now.
The order, however, essentially reinforces what schools are already supposed to be doing by formally requiring colleges to agree to promote free inquiry in order to get billions of dollars in federal research funding.
The order directs 12 federal agencies that fund university research to add language to existing agreements that colleges have to sign to get the money. Public universities will have to vow to uphold the First Amendment — something they already must do — and private universities will have to promise to uphold their own “stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech,” essentially setting their own rules.
It will be up to the agencies to enforce the agreements, as they already do.
But if that were true, you wouldn’t have comments like this which fly in the face of what is actually happening:
“Public universities are already bound by the First Amendment and work each day to defend and honor it,” Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said. “As institutions of higher learning, public universities are constantly working to identify new ways to educate students on the importance of free expression, provide venues for free speech, and advance our world through free academic inquiry.
“No executive order will change that,” he said.
A Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) found that 75% of 346 colleges and universities in a survey it conducted had substantial restrictions on free speech. Four states have found it necessary to pass laws forbidding “free speech zones” on campus. It would be impossible to find a college or university that does not impose sanctions for “hate” or “hurtful” speech…like stating homosexual marriage really isn’t at all like actual marriage.
Indeed, the facts say just the opposite. One of the invitees to the signing was Polly Olsen:
All Polly Olsen wanted to do was carry on a family tradition of handing out homemade Valentines with Bible verses on Valentine’s Day.
So, as she had done in previous years, the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College student went to campus in a red dress this past Valentine’s Day and began delivering heart-shaped religious Valentines made out of construction paper to fellow students and college staffers.
This time, a security officer stopped her for “suspicious activity” and told her she was violating school policy by sharing unwanted, potentially offensive messages.
Among the messages: “You are special! 1 John 4:11,” “God is love! 1 John 4:11,” “Jesus Loves you! Romans 5:8;” and “You are loved and cared for! 1 Peter 5:7.”
Another invitee was Kristan Hawkins who is president of Students for Life of America:
The absurdities of the imbalance of acceptance for peaceful speech can be seen in what pro-life-students recently endured in a class at Towson University, where Professor Lillian Carter leads a “Sexuality in Diverse Societies” class. The pro-abortion feminist professor at Towson University has a unique way to make students in her class feel uncomfortable; asking them to tell her what turns them on (and off) and then asks them to draw themselves naked. What was not allowed in a class designed to discuss sex and its consequences was student advocacy on behalf of the pro-life perspective – though students were encouraged to write about why Planned Parenthood should not be defunded.
Or consider what happened to Isabella Chowat UC-Berkeley, a Students for Life chapter leader and school senator, who was known on campus as a pro-life, Christian student leader. When she abstained from a vote condemning the Trump administration for defining a person’s gender as their sex at birth. For choosing not to speak, Chow was protested and threatened, voted out of every club of which she was a member (except for SFL and her faith-based group) including the Berkeley Political Review, which is supposed to be a nonpartisan political journal.
The Asian student whose parents emigrated to the U.S. for the American dream represented school media interests as part of her platform. Yet, in the height of hypocrisy, she was not permitted a chance to explain her reasons for abstaining in the school media publications that editorialized against her.
Another student champion, Bernadette Tasy is also joining me at the White House. She had to face Fresno State professor Dr. Gregory Thatcher, who both destroyed her pro-life speech, chalked on a school sidewalk and encouraged other students to do the same.
While it might be true that universities should be fostering free speech, particularly speech that goes against the grain of what the university elites believe, in order to teach students how to disagree amicably and without violence, that is not what is happening. The President’s order will serve as marching orders for the Department of Justice and for the Department of Education to take seriously the First Amendment rights of students and the duty of colleges and universities to protect them.
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