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Demosthenes's avatar

Was Trump's executive order on college free speech necessary?

Asked by Demosthenes (12781points) March 23rd, 2019

Here is a link to the actual executive order:

Other questions:

Is free speech under threat on college campuses? Do controversial speakers have a right to a platform on university campuses? To what extent can students protest certain speakers? Are conservative views suppressed on college campuses?

To me it’s sad that anyone felt this was necessary. Free speech should be a given on college campuses.

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54 Answers

Yellowdog's avatar

It’s supposed to already be that way on college campuses.

But it isn’t. And no executive order will change it.

When I was in college in the 1980s, Reagan was hated 3/5ths as much as Trump is today. Conservative voices met with angry mobs. Conservative bumper stickers would get your car vandalized. And Israel and South Africa were regarded to be in the same league.

A lot of the anti-conservative culture on college campuses are due to the fact that we are still in the mindset that liberalism, Marxism, and Socialism are still part of the counter-culture that was promoted by the Communist Student Movement, the Hippies, and similar groups that has been part of the college scene since the early-to-mid 1960s.

College students are no longer kids away from mom and dad for the first time, rebelling against their parents and the establishment. They have become mainstream. But conservatism is still “bad” in this climate.

It is easier to silence or intimidate voices you disagree with than to actually challenge the ideas, so no one wants conservative voices to be permitted on college campuses. Accusations of racism, homophobia, etc are allowed to stand since no one is permitted to speak the opposing view.

Caravanfan's avatar

I’ll be curious to see what Tom has to say, but I do agree with the last paragraph of @Yellowdog‘s paragraph. That said, at Berkeley, where I am a grad and where I live (more or less), protests and violence are NOT perpetrated by the students but by (my words) “professional protesters” that go to protests in Berkeley and Oakland. The students are actually generally okay with it and just want to get their work done.

hmmmmmm's avatar


This was a nod to his white nationalist, xenophobic, Islamophobic base who has been convinced that universities are awash in left-wing propaganda and never exposed to challenges. It’s complete horseshit, and those who propagate this idea know it is. Their goal, however, is to convince enough people who don’t know any better or haven’t even been to college.

College is a place where you are challenged (ideally) to evaluate your assumptions and are forced to step outside of your current understanding. To claim that college students are not exposed to conservatism or right-wing ideologies is absurd.

What these “free-speech” advocates really want is protected speech. They want Milo or Richard Spencer to be given a protected platform to spout their bullshit without any pushback. They don’t like that students may decide that they don’t want someone on their campus, and will demand that they are not given a platform.

This approach was used post-creationism with the “teach the controversy” nonsense. They would claim that there was a scientific controversy about evolution vs creationism (there isn’t), and claim that students are being robbed the truth if not given “both sides”. Yet, not a single student has ever been robbed of the inane ideas of creationism.

White nationalists and “conservatives” that claim they are being shut out have literally nothing to add to any discussion. There is nothing educational about it. And I am not surprised that college students don’t want that shit on their campus. If you are paying $100k to attend one of the places, you want to be able to decide whether or not some fucker is going to arrive and start talking race “science” or outing trans students or calling for violence.

This is not about free speech, period.

Demosthenes's avatar

@Caravanfan That’s an important point. Students are often blamed for actions that more extreme outside groups perpetrate.

Caravanfan's avatar

But in direct answer to the question, @hmmmmmm is correct. The “executive order” was entirely unnecessary and his analysis is correct.

zenvelo's avatar

To follow up with @Caravanfan, a recent incident at Cal sparked much of this, because of a conservative activist getting punched.

But the activist is not a student, he was just a recruiter for getting more activists to run counter protests. And the assailant isn’t a student either, he was just one of the locals who shows up at every demonstration.

Last year’s scheduled speech by Milo Yiannopoulos was also disrupted by protesters that were mostly non-students.

Perhaps the speech that needs protecting on campus is the speech and freedom of the students and faculty to not be disrupted by people who have no connection to the University.

“Outside Agitators.”

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Demosthenes: “Free speech should be a given on college campuses.”

Just to follow up on your assertion here…What exactly does this mean and how would/should it work?

If David Duke decides he wants to enlighten the UMASS Amherst students because he feels they haven’t been exposed to his brilliant ideas, do they give schedule a time for him in an auditorium? Is he guaranteed a chance to speak? And when students and non-students arrive to protest or celebrate him, do they hire additional police?

Be specific.

Caravanfan's avatar

There is a fuzzy line here, and it’s hard. I would be in favor of banning David Duke. But I would not be in favor of banning a mainstream conservative like Frum, Rice, Brooks, or Weiss and they should be given protected speech.

zenvelo's avatar

@hmmmmmm But David Duke is not a student or an academic at UMASS, and is not providing anything to the curriculum; he should not be on campus. Neither should Jesse Jackson or Louis Farrakhan.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Caravanfan: “There is a fuzzy line here, and it’s hard. I would be in favor of banning David Duke. But I would not be in favor of banning a mainstream conservative like Frum, Rice, Brooks, or Weiss and they should be given protected speech.”

But that’s just you wanting speech that you agree with. It’s not about free speech. What is the “fuzzy line” you refer to if not your own sensibility?

Demosthenes's avatar

@Caravanfan Right, and when I speak of “right-wing speakers”, I’m not just thinking of extremists and trolls nor am I thinking of downright illegal (or at the very least, reprehensible) actions like calling for violence or outing people. I’m thinking more of, say, a speaker defending the second amendment or a pro-Israel speaker or someone with more mainstream conservative views. Obviously the ethno-fascists and the trolls get the most attention, but they aren’t the only people who sometimes find themselves “de-platformed” (and in this case, I’m thinking of people who are given a right to speak at the university, and then students and protesters bar people from attending or otherwise disrupt the event).

Dutchess_III's avatar

He, personally, has a problem with hate speeches. Most normal, decent people do. Which makes that “Free Speech” proclamation by trump that much more hypocritical.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@zenvelo: ”@hmmmmmm But David Duke is not a student or an academic at UMASS, and is not providing anything to the curriculum; he should not be on campus. Neither should Jesse Jackson or Louis Farrakhan.”

But Milo, Richard Spencer also are appearing at these colleges that they don’t go to and this is what this supposed “free speech” issue is about.

@Demosthenes – You are also deciding what you feel is respectable vs “extreme”. Again, this goes against the stated intentions of this whole “free speech” movement – not to mention that if you are really supportive of free speech, it means that you are for the freedom of speech that you disagree with or find repulsive – not that speech which you agree with or find acceptable.

Are you sure your sympathy with this college “free speech” stuff isn’t based in some acceptance of the premise – that conservative views are being excluded from universities?

So, again, I ask you to be specific. Who is being excluded, and how exactly should a university handle such things. Is everyone with an opinion owed a right to a stage at a university?

mazingerz88's avatar

The real BS is white nationalists using charismatic personalities to advance their white supremacists agenda. With trump they have the ultimate piece of golden turd to use.

They just need to get to the white students while they’re young. Be seen in person as eloquent and philisophically sound while subtly pushing for separation of races. These white nationalist speakers would not incite physical violence nor hate. They just wanna be heard, given their right to free speech.

They want to be seen as their “cool bros.” Cool white skinned brothers. Fakk em.

Caravanfan's avatar

@hmmmmmm I agree with you. And I don’t have a good answer to it.

Demosthenes's avatar

@hmmmmmm I should be clear, I’m not saying that anyone is owed a right to a stage at a university. Universities should be free to decide who they allow to use their campus as a venue (though I would prefer that their policies about who is allowed are not ideologically based). I’m saying that once someone is allowed to speak (i.e. the university has granted them a platform), students and protesters should not prevent people from attending and they should not disrupt the event so that it cannot even take place as planned.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What if Hitler came back to life and wanted to rant at a college campus. Would everyone be OK with that being protected?

Demosthenes's avatar

@Dutchess_III Movie idea. I’ll call it “Springtime for Hitler” :P

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Demosthenes: “I’m saying that once someone is allowed to speak (i.e. the university has granted them a platform), students and protesters should not prevent people from attending and they should not disrupt the event so that it cannot even take place as planned.”

But you are advocating for a restriction on the free speech of the students and the protesters.

In order for this special protection to happen, the university would have to be prepared to take police action against their own students in order to protect the speech of one person.

How, precisely would this work?

seawulf575's avatar

There has been a movement for a long time to silence conservative voices on college campuses. Berkley has been sued numerous times and now the University of Florida has been too. These suits involved canceling of conservative speakers just because the university wants to brand their views as hate speech. I also remember the UC-Santa Barbara professor that attacked a pro-life protester that was in the approved location for their protest. The police finally took action, but the University fully supported her actions, or at least took no punitive actions against her. Probably more out there, but those have made national headlines. Also, there have been Fake claims put forth by liberal activist students to paint conservatives in a bad light. These are the graffiti that has swastikas along side pro-Trump items, false reports of attacks by conservatives and the like. These things happen because the attitude of the university is such that anything conservative is considered hateful and so any action against it is okay. I might point out that many on these pages also share that attitude.

Caravanfan's avatar

@seawulf575 “These suits involved canceling of conservative speakers just because the university wants to brand their views as hate speech. ”


Demosthenes's avatar

Seems like many of the cancellations were on the part of the speaker (their choice), though in some cases the cited reasons for cancellations (whether by the speaker or the university) were security concerns. But that gets into the question of whether anyone actually threatened violence or unrest or if people are just being overly cautious.

@hmmmmmm They can protest; they can’t shut down the event or physically bar people from attending. There will have to be some restrictions. I couldn’t walk into a classroom and disrupt a lecture. I’d be thrown out, and rightly so.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Can somebody start a spread sheet totaling the number of times we have begged @seawulf575 to provide some proof of what he claims to be true?

seawulf575's avatar

No some of these were ostentatiously for “security reasons”, but let’s look at that. The universities are willing to allow violent protests instead of supporting free speech. Some of these involved law suits, some were just examples of universities silencing views they don’t like. And it is no surprise that most university and college administrators and professors are liberals, so the views they don’t like are often conservative. They will not do anything to reel in liberal violent protests, but will squelch conservative views.

mazingerz88's avatar

^^White nationalists, white supremacists can speak out in the streets or in their own basements where they can hatch their racist evil plans.

They shouldn’t be allowed to speak in academia to legitimize their views.

Btw, conservative? Right to free speech. BS. Only idiots would fall for that.

Caravanfan's avatar

@seawulf575 The Cal suits were settled, and I happen to know (because I live here) that they were cancelled because of security concerns. The University settled without admitting fault because they wanted to avoid the court costs.

The Florida and UNH ones seem more legit.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Demosthenes, I’m not clear on the specifics of what you’re proposing.

@Demosthenes: “I couldn’t walk into a classroom and disrupt a lecture. I’d be thrown out, and rightly so.”

This statement has me thinking that we’re not talking about the same thing. How is disrupting an employee of the university – one who the students have paid to teach – in any way related to this discussion?

Regarding the vague “They can protest; they can’t shut down the event”, I’m assuming you mean that you have some specific guidelines regarding the type of speech that the students of the university can engage in regarding who comes to their school. I’d love to see how these specifics are defined and enforced.

Look, this isn’t a problem in search of a solution. Sending “controversial” speakers to universities with expectations that there will be protests (speech) only to then turn around and cry victim and oppression shouldn’t be met with “well, how are we going to fix this?” There is nothing to fix. Rancid speech is met with more speech. I don’t see the problem.

flutherother's avatar

My view is that colleges should be free to invite whoever they like to speak on campus and the government shouldn’t interfere by threatening to stop grant money.

Patty_Melt's avatar

^ The issue is about allowing free speech, not about limiting the speakers a college may invite.

If Hitler were suddenly here? Why not allow him to speak? That is the problem right there. Disallowing free speech because you disagree with the speaker. This is supposedly a democratic society, but we hate what someone stands for so don’t let them speak?

I am no white supremacist, but if they want to talk, let them talk.

Are people so insecure they have to shut up opponents to feel right about their world?

Let everyone speak, and individuals decide for themselves.

flutherother's avatar

Is it free speech if the government is exercising control over it? Government should back off, stop interfering and start governing.

seawulf575's avatar

@Caravanfan The ones at Berkley though uphold my other part…that the university would rather not reel in violent protesters. Imagine if the University actually arrested some of the protesters? Imagine if they took punitive action against violence? Instead, they are sending a message that is scary to its core…use violence to silence your political foes.

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother did you read the EO that was cited? The government is not exercising control over it, other than to say that all people have the right to free speech and that universities should be the centers of new ideas and be open to debate. In other words, the universities are NOT allowing free speech or expression of ideas based on how they view the opinions. Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be a conservative in today’s universities. Imagine that people attack you for merely voicing your opinion. Imagine if you had to watch liberal tool after liberal tool being allowed onto campus to spew their hatred, yet every conservative speaker is shutdown. How is that fair to conservatives? It isn’t. And it IS the government’s job to intercede when injustices are identified, if the parties involved cannot or will not resolve the issues themselves.

josie's avatar

The notion of Free Speech comes from the First Ammendment. The wording begins with “Congress shall pass no law…”

Congress. Doesn’t say University.

The issue in question isn’t whether or not the University can have a policy on speakers or demonstrations. They certainly can. And they clearly do.

The issue in question is should they get Federal money if they are behaving contrary to the standard established by the First Amendment.

I am no fan of the president, but I think it is a valid question.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Conservatives are demanding“free speech” in their fight against civil rights for others. They have no good intent.

‘The paradox of tolerance states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.’

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Patty_Melt: “If Hitler were suddenly here? Why not allow him to speak? That is the problem right there. Disallowing free speech because you disagree with the speaker. This is supposedly a democratic society, but we hate what someone stands for so don’t let them speak?”

So, let’s play this out and dive into the details of what you are proposing.

1. If Hitler were alive, all universities (or are you suggesting all institutions?) should allow Hitler to speak.

2. When Jews and other human types arrive to protest, they should be either blocked from getting close to the event or arrested when they start to protest.

3. All attendees need to be screened to make sure that they are there to quietly listen to the speaker.

Now this will mean the following….

For #1:

- Each university will have to take at least 1 of the of the 365 (minus holidays) days a particular speaking venue is available to make room for Hitler.
– Since there are up to [global population size] number of views that need to be represented, each university will need to build a speaking center for each possible person who requests to be heard. That would be [global population size] / (365 – holidays and breaks).

For #2:

- This would mean hiring a very large amount of police to do crowd control. In the case of Hitler, this police force would likely need to be the size of a small army. Cost will be very high. And since we have an astronomical number of speaking venues on each campus, the size of these police forces would likely have to match.
– One of the primary jobs of the university would be to protect speakers by arresting students and others.

For #3:

- The police state would have to be very robust, and include advanced screening techniques, including interviews of potential attendees, population and group tracking, etc.

Does this seem reasonable? Did I misinterpret what you are advocating for here, or was I simply elaborating on what you are proposing?

flutherother's avatar

@seawulf575 I did read the executive order and it is plain the government is trying to exercise control under the guise of promoting free speech. Free speech can be allowed but it can’t be promoted least of all by the government.

What next? Should the government tell publishers what books to print ensure political fairness or tell news sources which stories should be covered and how they should be covered in order to suit some politicised definition of “fairness”. I don’t think this is what the First Amendment intended.

Imagine too if a left leaning government was in power. Would you remain as keen for the government to promote “fairness” then?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Congress. Doesn’t say University

The 1st amendment applies to government at all levels, not just Congress. So a state university would have obligations that a private one does not.

It might apply to private schools that take federal money (including student loans), but I don’t know for sure.

Cornell Legal Education Institute – “Iincorporation doctrine is a constitutional doctrine through which the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution (known as the Bill of Rights) are made applicable to the states through the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Prior to the doctrine’s (and the Fourteenth Amendment’s) existence, the Bill of Rights applied only to the Federal Government and to federal court cases.”

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother please show me where, in the EO it says they are trying to exercise control? What they are doing is putting out guidance that the Nazi tactics that are currently going on against conservatives are no longer going to be supported by the government. How, when you say that suppression of first amendment rights is wrong, do you get a power grab? That isn’t even logical. I think your TDS is peeking through.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@josie—The first amendment deals with the separation of church and state, not free speech.

josie's avatar

The First Ammendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Nowhere in the Constitution does it say separation of church and state. It says Congress can’t establish a religion. Before ratification some of the original States had establishment churches. The framers did not want the Federal govt to compete with that.

flutherother's avatar

@seawulf575 Where it mentions funding. How free will colleges be if they can lose funding because the state doesn’t approve of their choice of speakers. For me the First Amendment aims to restrict government control over freedom of expression and making government the arbiter of what is acceptable runs completely contrary to the spirit of what was intended.

Yellowdog's avatar

Allowing conservative views to be expressed on a university campus is a whole different universe from the government dictating their choice of speakers, @flutherother.

Individual student groups, often through the Student Government Association, are who and what invites speakers to a college campus in the U.S. If only liberals, radicals, Farrakhan groups, etc etc are allowed to speak, many students are likely to believe what those groups say about conservatives, and others

That is why when a conservative comes to speak on a university campus, there are protestors and demonstrators who are shouting and accusing things that are not at all the views of the speaker. They have been misinformed with propaganda. That is why it is essential that students get their information about speakers, groups, movements, etc from the groups themselves.

If only some views are represented, and lies are permitted to be told about others, then this is not a liberal education. It is propaganda. And the government doesn’t need to be funding that.

flutherother's avatar

I can’t see students taking kindly to guest speakers they don’t want to hear especially if the government has pressured the college to invite them.

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother The EO isn’t about choosing speakers for universities. It is about ensuring all viewpoints are allowed to be heard equally. It is about eliminating discrimination by the University against the conservatives. Or is it just that you believe discrimination is okay as long as it is against those you disagree with?
As for students not taking kindly to guest speakers they don’t want to hear, that is what is going on already, except it isn’t just students. It is paid protesters and political activists. AND, the guest speakers they are protesting against were invited by students who wanted to hear them speak.
Go read the EO again. It doesn’t say a single thing about the government picking the speakers or that the university has to get permission. It says the university has to ensure all views can be heard which means the universities have to stop allowing violent protesters to disrupt speakers they don’t agree with…they have to ensure security is set.

zenvelo's avatar

I am absolutely behind the EO if it also applies to Liberty University.

flutherother's avatar

I still say the government should keep out of it. That is essentially all the First Amendment requires. To think that freedom of speech can be enforced is a nonsense.

Yellowdog's avatar

@flutherother The government has nothing to do with the selection of speakers at universities. The executive order allowing free speech has nothing to do with the government selecting speakers for universities.

The topic itself, of free speech guaranteed to university students, has nothing to do do with the government selecting speakers for universities.

Speakers for universities are normally selected by student organizations and the student government association (SGA). Some are paid for by the student groups themselves, some are funded by a Student Activity Fee that is a part of the tuition cost.

seawulf575's avatar

@zenvelo if they receive federal money (and I think they do), I would hope it applied to them as well. Universities are supposed to be about expanded learning and thinking. You can’t expand your learning and thinking if you are only allowed to hear one viewpoint.

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother Your last statement is really, really scary in many ways. The First Amendment doesn’t say the government needs to stay out of free speech. It says they cannot pass a law abridging (or limiting) free speech. How you can believe it states the government needs to stay out of it is very odd. Also, your last sentence: “To think that freedom of speech can be enforced is a nonsense.” tells me you have a woeful misunderstanding. The Freedom of Speech is listed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Enforcing the Constitution is EXACTLY what the federal government is supposed to do. Trump’s EO isn’t abridging free speech…that is what has been done by the universities. The EO is enforcing the right to free speech for all people.

flutherother's avatar

Rather than scare you any further I would just suggest you read the First Amendment again. If you can find any reference to enforcement of free speech by the government I will give you one silver dollar.

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother that statement is even more inane and scary than your last. The Constitution is the basis for our entire nation. It is the laws we set forth to ensure our nation works for the people. To try saying there isn’t a specific word in the First Amendment (or any of the amendments) saying the government is supposed to enforce those laws is foolishness. There are places where it is written. Here, I will help you…I know how to use Google.

”“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 3

“An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.” 5 U.S.C. 3331

“At the first session of Congress after every general election of Representatives, the oath of office shall be administered by any Member of the House of Representatives to the Speaker; and by the Speaker to all the Members and Delegates present, and to the Clerk, previous to entering on any other business; and to the Members and Delegates who afterward appear, previous to their taking their seats.

The Clerk of the House of Representatives of the Eightieth and each succeeding Congress shall cause the oath of office to be printed, furnishing two copies to each Member and Delegate who has taken the oath of office in accordance with law, which shall be subscribed in person by the Member or Delegate, who shall thereupon deliver them to the Clerk, one to be filed in the records of the House of Representatives, and the other to be recorded in the Journal of the House and in the Congressional Record; and such signed copies, or certified copies thereof, or of either of such records thereof, shall be admissible in evidence in any court of the United States, and shall be held conclusive proof of the fact that the signer duly took the oath of office in accordance with law.” 2 U.S.C. 25

“Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”” US Constitution Article II section 1

All of these (and common sense) should tell you it is incumbent on the Federal government to enforce the laws of the Constitution. So while you are right that the wording is not in the First Amendment, you are entirely wrong in believing it is not the job of the government to enforce those rules.

flutherother's avatar

Sorry, I appreciate the response but no silver dollar I’m afraid.

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