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Trump Signs Executive Order to Protect Free Speech After Campus Conflict Against Conservatives

03-21-2019
Trump & Hayden Williams (Photo: AP)

President Trump signed an executive order today protecting free speech on college campuses. The move fulfills a promise he made to conservatives after announcing the order at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last month. 

The executive order is a result of increased conflict on college campuses against conservatives. An incident at University of California, Berkeley pushed the president to make the decision. 

Hayden Williams, a student at UC Berkeley, was punched in the face for supporting Trump and conservative causes. President Trump brought Williams on stage with him when he made the announcement at the conference. 

Some on the Left have pushed to ban or block conservative ideas, labeling them as "hate speech," and Arthur Milikh with the Heritage Foundation says those demands should be taken seriously. Milikh wrote, "In fact, much evidence suggests that such regulation is necessary to bring about many of the Left's political and moral goals."

Trump's order ties the free speech policies to federal research dollars. Therefore, if colleges and universities do not follow the new procedure, they can lose certain federal funding. 

"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," Trump said at CPAC. "Free speech. If they don't, it will be costly."

According to the National Science Foundation, the federal government grants colleges and universities over $26 billion annually to conduct research, the Washington Post reports. 

The White House states Trump will sign the executive order and make "remarks on improving free inquiry, transparency and accountability on campus" in the East Room. President Trump has invited multiple conservative students to attend the event. 

One of the invitees is Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. Hawkins told POLITICO her group has met with Vice President Mike Pence twice to discuss incidents on college campuses. 

"Probably no other campus group has had more free speech issues than the pro-life movement," stated Hawkins. "I'm really excited for the spotlight that's finally being shed on this issue."

Four Berkeley College Republicans are expected to attend the signing as well. Speeches by the activists in the past have ended in violent attacks. Berkeley settled a lawsuit last fall, paying a $70,000 fine and promising to support conservative events. Berkeley's Chancellor, Carol Christ, has stated the college has spent $4 million in the last year to ensure conservative students can "safely and successfully" hold events.

Matt Ranau, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, shared his excitement over the executive order and being asked to attend the event. 

"Being invited is a huge honor," Ranau told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I've never been to DC or seen the president up close. Obviously, free speech on college campuses is something very close to me. I'm really glad President Trump is taking some action on addressing this issue. I'm fully supportive."

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