Trump Administration Advances Policy to Protect Free Speech on Campus

POLITICS & POLICY
President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Londonderry, N.H., August 28, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters )

The Department of Education issued a proposed rule yesterday to enact a policy that President Trump outlined in an executive order in the spring of 2019, which aimed to incentivize robust free-speech practices on college campuses across the country.

Trump’s order had instructed a number of federal agencies to create free-speech policies that would help to govern which institutions could remain eligible for federal education funding. The Education Department is the first of those agencies to unveil a rule along the lines of what Trump asked.

The new policy would allow the Department of Education to suspend or eliminate federal grants allocated to public universities that courts find to have violated the First Amendment. It would also permit the department to determine that some schools with serious free-speech violations might be ineligible for any future grants.

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When it comes to private universities, the Department of Education would have the authority to suspend or eliminate grants to schools that are found in court to have violated their own institution’s stated speech policies.

Meanwhile, the policy creates additional protections for religious student groups at public universities; any public college or university that denies religious student groups access to facilities and student-fee funding that are available to other campus groups would risk losing Education Department funding.

“Students should not be forced to choose between their faith and their education, and an institution controlled by a religious organization should not have to sacrifice its religious beliefs to participate in Department grants and programs,” DeVos said after the rule was announced.

This is a smart move for the Education Department to make just before the election. The new policy, which would fulfill the promise Trump made in his executive order a year and a half ago, puts into practice what conservative education experts have been suggesting for quite some time.

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