Over the weekend, during a speech to activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference, President Trump pledged to issue an executive order that would deny federal research funds to colleges and universities that do not “support free speech.”
The AAUP’s position on this is clear. We strongly support freedom of expression on campus and the rights of faculty and students to invite speakers of their choosing. And we support the institutional autonomy of colleges and universities and the roles of faculty, administration, and governing boards in institutional decision-making. The president’s proposal is a dangerous solution to a largely nonexistent problem.
Even if the current political environment poses significant problems for free speech, the view that the free exchange of ideas no longer occurs on campuses is grossly exaggerated. There are and always will be individuals on campus and in society generally who wish to silence those with whom they disagree. But punitive and simplistic measures will only exacerbate the problems they may create. While the specific provisions of the promised executive order have not been revealed, they would doubtless be of a kind with the problematic provisions of recent state-level legislation that seeks to regulate free speech —in ways more likely to stifle than encourage free expression and diversity of opinion.
Stand with us in calling on Trump to not interfere with the role of faculty, administration, and governing board in institutional decision-making around free speech, as well as the role of students in the formulation and application of institutional policies affecting student affairs.
P.S. Check out our One Faculty, One Resistance website and Campus Free Speech Toolkit to learn more about the conservative forces behind these new restrictive speech policy proposals and how faculty can take them on in their state legislatures.