Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday afternoon aimed at improving transparency and promoting free speech on college campuses, part of a largely symbolic gesture to the President’s conservative base announced at a conference for conservative activists earlier this month.
“We’re here to take historic action to defend American students and American values. They are under siege,“ Trump said during a signing event at the East Room of the White House.
“Every year the federal government provides educational institutions with more than $35 billion dollars in research funding, all of that money is now at stake. That’s a lot of money. They’re going to have to not like your views a lot, right?“ Trump said. “If a college or university does not allow you to speak, we will not give them money.“
The order, a senior administration official told reporters on a call previewing the signing, is part of the President’s vision of “making higher education more transparent and holding institutions more accountable.“
Cabinet officials, state officials, more than 100 students, as well as conservative policy group leaders and free speech advocates attended the event.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who attended the signing, said the executive order “demonstrates this administration’s commitment to supporting and empowering students with meaningful resources as they pursue their life-long learning journeys and future careers.“
Earlier in his presidency, Trump called for bumping up further restrictions on the press by “opening up“ libel laws. However, Trump’s new executive order is happening against the backdrop of conservative voices highlighting instances of alleged violence directed toward student activists in viral videos on social media.
The official speaking to press on Thursday would not comment on recent incidents, saying only that Trump “is fully committed to free speech on college campuses.“