On March 21, President Donald Trump signed an executive order addressing free speech on college campuses that is aimed at, according to the order’s text, “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities.”
The executive order empowers federal agencies to “take appropriate steps…to ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.” The executive order does not create any new obligations, as public universities are already subject to the First Amendment.
The executive order is controversial among some free speech groups. The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) argues that the executive order will serve to chill academic freedom and freedom of inquiry, contrary to the order’s stated goals.
“The order does not specify how government agencies will measure an institution’s compliance, nor how political bias will be eliminated from those measurements,” the NCAC wrote in a statement. “As a result, the opportunity for politically-motivated decisions about what speech should or should not be permitted on university campuses is far too great.”
President Trump described the executive order as “the first in a series of steps we will take to defend students’ rights.”