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The Progressive Teen

Trump’s Executive Order for Free Speech at Colleges is Only Meant to Help Conservatives

Trump and “Free Speech”

Trump signs executive order calling for colleges to maintain the freedom of speech on campuses. (USA Today)


The Progressive Teen Staff Writer

ON THURSDAY, MARCH 21ST, President Donald Trump signed an executive order protecting the right to freedom of speech for students on public college campuses, threatening to halt funding if schools fail to comply. The order stems from claims by many conservatives that colleges have become too liberal, and that conservative students aren’t being given a voice, but are instead being silenced.

At a base level, the order doesn’t seem controversial; obviously, all students should have the right to voice their opinions at school. But the order’s primary focus is definitely skewed one way. Trump first announced this plan at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, where he was accompanied onstage by a conservative activist who was punched while recruiting at the University of California-Berkeley. At the signing for the order on March 21, Trump was joined by several college students who claimed their conservative viewpoints were stifled by their schools. It’s obvious that this is meant to appeal to his party and supporters.

But is this executive order really necessary? Freedom of speech is protected under the First Amendment- it’s already a law that schools and all other institutions need to follow. At its core, the order seems like a prop for supporters and another issue for Trump to use to garner popularity, especially before the upcoming 2020 election. It is a rallying cry for conservatives.

At the end of the day, Trump’s executive order is not actually about freedom of speech — it’s about pleasing supporters. It serves to reiterate one of the most basic and fundamental parts of our democracy, which is not needed. While the order is not biased in writing, Trump’s actions surrounding it show that it is only meant to aid conservative values.

If a school is found to not comply with the order, they can be at risk of losing federal funding, but the document lacks certain details, and creates new questions: What constitutes a college infringing upon a student’s freedom of speech? The order does not give parameters for the issue, which takes away from its credibility as well as the gravity of the problem it is trying to stop. Without a set outline, the executive order probably won’t cause any major change on college campuses, because its rules are hard to enforce.

Setbacks that conservative students may face at schools are not often at the hands of the administration, despite what seems to be the case with the language surrounding the executive order. Many cite other more liberal students pushing back against them, like when protests break out over right-wing visitors coming to schools. In these cases, which have resulted in violence in many instances, the events being fought against were often canceled by the school due to safety concerns. A college cancelling an event for a conservative figure because of violent protests is a means of keeping the campus safe, not a way to suppress people’s views. Security comes above a guest speaker.

Facing opposition from peers for one’s values is a lot different than a school denying people the right to share their views, a circumstance that is blurred in the executive order. While being judged for your political views by your peers is not ideal, it is not illegal. There is a difference between receiving pushback from fellow classmates and receiving pushback from administration on the basis of a personal opinion, which Trump distorts.

The notion that the majority of college students are more left-leaning is nothing new. Whether this is true or not, it makes sense why one might perceivably come home from school and see the world from a more liberal viewpoint: college is full of new people, new ideas, and new experiences, so becoming more open to change is likely. This could translate into more liberal views. In the conversation surrounding the executive order, this idea has created a rhetoric that conservatives are a small population being victimized, which is not necessarily true.

However, liberalism constantly clashes with conservatism on college campuses, which caused Trump to put the order into place. But in the current political climate, how could it not? The United States is extremely divided in political views, and in an environment where young people are given new freedoms and a new voice, it is no surprise that they are utilizing them. Viewpoints are constantly challenged on social media, in the news, and in daily life, and the continuation to college students is just another way to show how the country is severely split.

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