The Trump administration will wade into the battleground of censorship on college campuses with an executive order to protect free speech, the president announced Saturday.
“We reject oppressive speech codes, censorship, political correctness and every other attempt by the hard left to stop people from challenging ridiculous and dangerous ideas,” Trump said during his address at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference.
“These ideas are dangerous,” he added. “Instead we believe in free speech, including online and including on campus.”
Hayden Williams was also on stage with the president.
Williams, a field representative for The Leadership Institute, a young conservatives training organization, was punched repeatedly last month at the University of California at Berkeley by a man angered by the signs on the table next to Williams.
Police have arrested Zachary Greenberg, 28, in connection with the assault.
“He took a hard punch in the face for all of us, remember that,” the president said of Williams. “He took a punch for all of us, and we can never allow that to happen. And in closing with Hayden, here is the good news: He is going to be a very wealthy young man.”
Trump said Williams should sue not only his attacker but the University of California, as well.
Williams said Trump is a leader for conservative activists on campus.
“These students do it because they have a love of our nation and freedom and, frankly, a love for you Mr. President,” Williams said, according to The Daily Caller.
Trump announced that his administration will be taking action to support the First Amendment on university campuses.
“Today I am proud to announce that I will be very soon signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars,” the president said.
“If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people, to speak, free speech,” Trump said. “If they don’t, it will be very costly. That will be signed very soon.”
The Berkeley incident has been highlighted as an instance in which colleges take the abridgment of the rights of conservatives less seriously than they do the rights of leftists.
Bryan Bernys, who leads the Campus Leadership Program at The Leadership Institute, said the university created “a culture that fosters this type of horrible behavior toward anyone or anything that you disagree with,” The New York Times reported.
“What does it say about Berkeley that this gentleman felt that he could go up and basically sucker-punch or cold-cock Hayden in the middle of a public square for no other reason than he disagreed with some of his speech and the signs that were out there?”
The White House did not provide further details about the full extent of the executive order or a timetable for its issuance.
Trump has highlighted the need for free speech on campuses before.
During a June 2018 Face-to-Face With Our Future event, Trump spoke about the need for young people to speak up for what they believe in.
“Each of you represent the future of this nation. You aren’t afraid to speak the truth and the truth as you know it, and to stand up for what you know is right, even if it means being politically incorrect on occasion,” Trump said.
“We believe in free speech on college campuses, not censorship. Institutions of higher learning should be forums for open discussion either way. You can be liberal, you can be conservative, you can be Democrats, Republicans. Hear it all out — and you make your choice. You may not agree with me on things. Some people don’t; some people do. But you have to have free speech.”
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