“President” Donald Trump had signaled that he intended to sign an executive order that was designed to guarantee free speech on college campuses. On Thursday, Trump followed through on his promise, executing his latest Executive Order, “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability At Colleges and Universities.” Like much that comes from Trump, his “winning,” it is an empty bag of gas.
The Executive Order directs twelve federal grant-making agencies to ensure that the higher education schools that receive federal research funds are complying with the laws and regulations that already exist at the federal level. As Vox noted, Trump’s EO “is more symbolism than substance.” Trump had promised such action at the annual Cult 45 convention, aka the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Violence is never the answer, and physical assaults on individuals such as Hayden Williams, who was allegedly attacked at the University of California Berkley, must be condemned. The same goes for physical damage and violence against property or individuals. But Trump’s EO is especially addressed to the perceived suppression against conservative speakers and students. Trump’s EO provides:
“Free 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.”
It will be interesting to see how the conservative institutions (yes, there are many such places of higher learning) implement this order not to “stifle competing perspectives.” This new executive order does not address federal financial aid programs. However, the EO does require a report by January 2020 addressing the risk-sharing proposals for colleges, something that Trump has indicated would be coming.
The report could address caps on student loans available and put more emphasis on the institutions sharing in the financial burdens. The outcome likely will have little impact, as the cost of a college education is not likely to decrease in any meaningful way. As per the normal, Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos don’t know much about education, or anything. Trump does know executive orders, though.