Should Trump Block Federal Funds from Universities that Deny Free Speech?

Last week, President Trump announced plans for an executive order that would deny federal research funds to universities that do not support free speech. The president has yet to reveal how the order would work, and opposition to the plan raised some rather strange arguments.

The executive order is “unnecessary,” argued Noah Feldman in Bloomberg News, because public universities are already subject “to the full reach of the First Amendment.” The president’s order “would be telling universities what speech can or cannot be allowed on campus.” In reality, campus “diversity” bosses are already telling students and faculty alike that some kinds of speech are not allowed on campus, particularly speech that supports First Amendment free-speech rights. Consider the case of Keith Fink.

As a UCLA student, Fink won three national debating championships, earned a law degree, then returned to the campus as an instructor. Students from all disciplines packed out his course on free speech, which covered violations by campus bosses. UCLA bosses proceeded to limit enrollment to Fink’s classes, conduct a rigged review process, and finally fire the professor. As Sarah Brown wondered in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Why Did a UCLA Instructor With a Popular Free-Speech Course Lose His Job?” To all but the willfully blind, the reason is pretty clear, and UCLA also went after Fink’s supporters and even his college debate coach.

The nation’s free-speech zone includes the entire country, and UC students have free speech as a matter of right. On the other hand, universities have no constitutional right to federal funds for any purpose. In 2014, the U.S. Department of education threatened to “terminate federal funding” of Tufts University for Title IX violations. Violations of free speech are much more serious, so UCLA faculty and students could not be blamed for supporting the president’s proposed order.

If the president blocks the funds, UC campuses could compensate by cutting diversity bureaucrats such as UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. As Heather MacDonald notes in The Diversity Delusion, UCLA pays him a whopping $440,000 a year. Some researcher might put that money to some legitimate use, and California’s Proposition 209 already bars racial and ethnic preferences in state education. All diversity bureaucrat positions constitute wasteful spending and should be eliminated at the earliest opportunity.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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