Statement on Campus Free Speech Executive Order
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the White House released its Executive Order IMPROVING FREE INQUIRY, TRANSPARENCY, AND ACCOUNTABILITY AT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. The Executive Order requires Federal Departments to “ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.” In the Executive Order, Trump said his Administration “seeks to promote free and open debate on college and university campuses.” The President went on to say, “[F]ree inquiry is an essential feature of our Nation’s democracy, and it promotes learning, scientific discovery, and economic prosperity. We must encourage institutions to appropriately account for this bedrock principle in their administration of student life and to avoid creating environments that stifle competing perspectives, thereby potentially impeding beneficial research and undermining learning.”
ALEC applauds the Trump Administration for taking the First Amendment and free speech on college campuses seriously. In today’s toxic political climate, it is more important than ever to ensure all people, but especially our nation’s young people, understand, respect, and value the First Amendment and the power of Free Speech to change society. It is also imperative for taxpayer-funded entities to respect and protect the free speech rights of students on campus. Free Speech allows good and bad ideas to be shared, debated, challenged and improved upon. It is with open debate and inquiry that better policies are created. The ability to listen, debate and process the opposing views of others is imperative. As the President said, “free inquiry is essential to our Nation’s democracy.” Our public institutions of higher education have a duty to ensure students receive a quality education; and a quality education cannot be achieved without a firm commitment to the free expression of ideas.
Although ALEC is happy to see the Federal Government take the issue of campus speech seriously, ALEC also knows the “devil’s in the details,” especially when the federal government is involved. ALEC is happy to see the President’s Executive Order is not a costly mandate on the states. But we will be diligently watching how the Executive Order is implemented and its impact, if any, on academic freedom, institutional autonomy and of course, free speech on campus. ALEC will continue to work with our state lawmakers and the Administration to ensure institutions of higher learning are protecting the free speech rights of all students on campus.