President Donald Trump signed an executive order March 21 requiring colleges to protect free speech on campus or risk losing federal research funding.
The executive order appointed federal agencies to ensure that any college or university receiving research grants agrees to promote free speech and follow federal rules on free expression, the Associated Press reported.
“Even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and to the First Amendment,” Trump said at the White House signing ceremony, according to AP. “These universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans.”
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Under the executive order, colleges must agree to protect free speech to tap into more than $35 billion a year in research and educational grants.
While enforcement has been left to federal agencies, how schools will be held to such standards and what types of violations could lead to a loss in funding have not yet been reported by White House officials, the AP reported.
In 2017, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved a “Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression” policy, which aligns strongly with the expectations assigned by Trump’s order.
While the policy was met with mixed reactions, UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone said these are longstanding policies and the university, a public institution, is required by law to uphold the First Amendment.
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The policy requires suspension for a student who has been found responsible for disrupting freedom of expression twice and a third offense leads to expulsion, according to UW-System protest guidelines.
“It is vital that members of the university community feel free to express their views on all sides of issues — and that they do so in a way that does not disrupt others’ free speech or create an unsafe environment,” McGlone said.
While UW does not anticipate any changes to campus policies at this time, McGlone said the university cherishes freedom of inquiry and intellectual freedom. When protests or counter-protests occur, the university works with organizers to ensure they are peaceful and don’t violate the law.
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McGlone said UW hosts a wide range of speakers, and over the past year, at least a half-dozen conservative speakers have spoken on campus without disruption.
White House officials will detail the implementation of this order in the coming months, according to AP.
The Wisconsin governor’s office was unable to comment on the matter at the time of publication.