UC system responds to Trump’s executive order tying free speech to funding

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The UC Office of the President, or UCOP, responded to the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Thursday that ties federal funding and grants for public universities to their promotion of “free inquiry,” calling the order “unnecessary” and reaffirming the UC system’s accordance with free speech laws.

The executive order, signed Thursday afternoon, proposes to “ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants promote free inquiry,” including compliance with federal laws and the First Amendment, according to the order. According to a UCOP press release, the UC system’s policies already align with the applicable laws protecting free speech.

“The university has spent significant resources on security and logistical support to facilitate the expression of diverse speakers and opinions,” the press release said. “A simple visit to any of our campuses would underscore the superfluous nature of this executive order.”

Trump initially proposed this executive order after the assault of Hayden Williams, a man tabling for a conservative organization on UC Berkeley’s campus Feb. 19. After the event generated national controversy, Trump said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference that he would create an executive order to ensure that universities support free speech “if they want federal research dollars.”

During his remarks at the signing of the executive order, Trump said some universities have tried to “restrict free thought,” and those that do not protect First Amendment laws will “risk losing billions and billions of dollars of federal taxpayer dollars.”

According to the UCOP press release, the UC system has established a free speech center to explore the manifestations of the First Amendment across UC campuses and reinforced the idea that the university is a breeding ground for a diverse array of viewpoints.

“We do not need the federal government to mandate what already exists: our longstanding, unequivocal support for freedom of expression,” the press release said. “This executive order will only muddle policies surrounding free speech, while doing nothing to further the aim of the First Amendment.”

Amanda Bradford is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.