President Trump signed an executive order last week regarding free speech on college campuses. The order stemmed from conservative student voices expressing concerns about the ability to freely speak their mind on campus.
The conditions within the executive order include the potential for federal funding to be withheld from universities that are suppressing students’ right to free speech. Trump’s concern is that professors and those in power do not allow students to challenge liberal ideas, and that colleges are not encouraging open discourse on campus.
Our current administration wants to work toward protecting students’ rights. The president argues that universities are preventing students from speaking openly, thus encouraging only one viewpoint.
The administration and other supporters of the order believe conservative students are among the most silenced and suppressed on campuses. While the exact language of the executive order does not explicitly state the favoring of conservative students, the conversations with organizations surrounding the issue, as well as statements made by Trump himself, made the target audience very clear.
Should our federal government be stepping into the conversation that many colleges across our country are already having?
Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council of Education, released a statement expressing his concern for the new order. He said it was “neither needed nor desirable.” By letting the government step in, universities could risk losing crucial funding that helps sustain research efforts across the country.
It is also important to note there are no clear examples of what is expected of universities when it comes to campus free speech. This increases the already present risk of universities losing funding, as well as opening the door for potential lawsuits if students feel their rights are being infringed upon on campus and within the classroom.
College campuses are places where all students should be able to share their thoughts and opinions, regardless of political, religious or other personal beliefs. Disagreeing with one another creates healthy debate, leads to greater understanding and encourages others to introspectively examine their ideals. But if students feel their campuses are not supportive of their fundamental rights, it should be dealt with on a collegiate level. It is important that all students are heard. It should be our responsibility to maintain a level of respectful and open discourse among our peers.