Over the weekend President Trump made headlines previewing a future executive order “requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars.” This announcement was met with cheers from the crowd at CPAC—many attendees are college aged and have experienced the effects of speech codes on their own campus.
Adam Kissel, who has worked with the DOE and the free speech advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), explains how this executive order could unfold: “The best way to challenge ridiculous or generous ideas is with more, better speech. But the further an executive order runs from black-letter policies and training documents into amorphous campus practices, the more complicated it would be to punish violators.”
Though the executive order is yet to be released, it is clear that there are lots of variables to think about when dealing with enforcement. Kissel is right in his questioning the logistics of such policies.
However, the push for free speech on college campuses has already gained momentum at many institutions. Groups like Young Americans for Liberty in coordination with FIRE have organized college students on campuses across the country in a grassroots effort to fight back against “free speech zones”. It seems that some college administrations feel the Constitution doesn’t apply on the grounds of their public university.
College is a time when young people leave their homes and are exposed to different cultures and ideas. Some people say that their right not to hear things that offend them negates the guarantee of free speech.
Having spent my own undergraduate years battling administrators over speech codes, I will admit that I am beyond excited to see what happens next.