Response To President Trump's Executive Order On Denial of Research Funds

Below is a response from Julie Schmid, AAUP executive director, on President Trump's executive order that would deny federal research funds to colleges and universities that do not "support free speech."

On the topic of campus free speech, President Trump’s executive order seems to do little procedurally, but is troubling in that it serves a broader goal of attempting to discredit higher education. Like the president’s attacks on other perceived enemies, whether they be journalists, scientists, or academic institutions, and like other attacks on higher education spearheaded by far right-wing organizations like Turning Point USA, the order seems largely designed to undermine the public trust.

It is also troubling that in his remarks the president sought to drive a wedge between students and faculty, casting his executive order as a “clear message to the professors” that their funding was now at risk while also raising the specters of  “political indoctrination” and “coercion.”

The executive order itself is a solution in search of a problem--as the order notes, colleges and universities already have policies protecting free expression on campus, and, in the case of public institutions, are bound by the First Amendment.

Given the vague nature of the order, much depends on implementation. It remains to be seen if the executive order, in allowing cabinet agencies to draw up their own guidelines that could outline what the administration considers noncompliance, will have an impact on federal research and education grants.

The American Association of University Professors has existed since 1915 precisely to protect academics from political and other pressure on research, speech, and teaching. The AAUP strongly supports freedom of expression on campus and the rights of faculty and students to invite speakers of their choosing.

 

Publication Date: 
Thursday, March 21, 2019