UConn, Yale defend polices as Trump threatens funding over free speech

UConn, Yale defend polices as Trump threatens funding over free speech

President Donald Trump on Thursday fulfilled a promise he made to conservative activists earlier this month by signing an executive order that makes federal research dollars for universities and colleges contingent on assurances of free speech on their campuses.

Trump said his new policy will send a powerful message to “professors and power structures” who want to keep young Americans “from challenging rigid, far-left ideology.”

“If a college or university does not allow you speak, we will not give them money,” the president said.

Connecticut’s universities said Thursday they already protect free speech.

The Trump administration did not define what would have to occur for a school to lose its funding and how the administration would enforce the rule.

“I won’t get into implementation details but OMB (the Office of Management and Budget) will work with each agency on implementation,” an administration official said. “That will be coming in the next several weeks and months.”

Public universities, like the University of Connecticut, must already uphold the rights protected in the Constitution’s First Amendment. Private universities like Yale have leeway to set up their own rules around free speech. But an administration official said they must “comply with their stated institutional policies regarding free inquiry.”

“UConn does not have a free speech policy — the First Amendment is its guiding principle,” said UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz. “Free speech is one of UConn’s bedrock values, regardless of the content of that speech.”

“But we are very supportive of free speech,” Morgan said.

Yale is among the top schools in the nation when it comes to federal research dollars.

The National Science Foundation ranked Yale 15th in spending on research, having spent more than $950 million in 2017, of which $541 million came from federal grants.

UConn received nearly $215 million in federal research grants in 2018.

Trump initially proposed the idea to tie research dollars to free speech during a March 2nd speech to conservative activists, during which he highlighted  the case of activist Hayden Williams, who was punched while recruiting on the University of California, Berkeley campus in February.

While conservatives say universities discriminate against visiting conservative speakers, the schools say that when they allow controversial speakers to exercise their First Amendment rights on campus, they must do their best to defuse tensions and keep students safe.

Last year, UConn was criticized for its handling of an appearance by Ben Shapiro, author of  “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.”

The school approved a request from the College Republicans for Shapiro’s appearance only after holding a so-called pre-event review process. It restricted access to the event and offered counseling to students who might be offended by Shapiro’s talk.

Lucian Wintrich was heckled at UConn when he tried a couple of months before that to deliver his speech, “It’s OK To Be White.” The event ended when a protester took his notes from the lectern and a fracas ensued.


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