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March 26 2019

Do College Presidents Secretly Welcome Trump's Freedom of Speech Executive Order?

by Charlotte Hays

College administrators have decried President Trump's executive order saying that free speech on campus is a requirement for receiving federal funds.

Emory professor Mark Bauerlein, however, suggests that many college presidents welcome the executive order. Secretly.

Writing in the New York Times, Bauerlein argues that college presidents don't like the current atmosphere on campus. Though they would not say it publicly, the executive order will be helpful to them.

Bauerlein writes:

But consider the actual pressures and burdens on the president of a research university that takes in grants by the millions every year. The college presidents won’t say so, but in light of their daily duties, this “speech” aspect of the executive order may look to them like a godsend.

The order originates in specific incidents: a student harassed by school officials for her anti-abortion messaging, the creation of illiberal speech codes, and the shout-downs that conservative speakers like Heather Mac Donald and Charles Murray have endured during their campus visits.

College leaders aren’t happy with this. They prefer that a student manning a table for the group Turning Point USA be left alone, and that Ben Shapiro have his say on Wednesday and leave on Thursday. They favor free speech even as they openly disagree with the conservative’s opinions.

. . .

These students intimidate the highest officials in a university more than outsiders can imagine. A student at Yale yelling at the professor who tried to reason with her did tremendous damage to Yale’s brand, but the administration couldn’t come down on her without compromising its pledges of inclusivity and anti-discrimination and sensitivity.

This is why, even if they won’t say it publicly, many university administrators most likely welcome the federal government’s heavy hand. President Trump has taken the burden of free speech off their shoulders. Administrators now must stop the illiberalism of the activists as a matter of federal policy.

Meanwhile, Stanley Kurtz, an outspoken supporter of the executive order, argues that, far from being a sop to the base, as some critics charge, the order will lead over time to public universities upholding the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment (which they already are obligated to do).





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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