President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order that would withhold billions of dollars in federal research funding from colleges and universities that do not uphold the values of “free speech,” he said Saturday.
During his address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Trump said he’ll enact such an order “very soon” in light of backlash against conservatives on college campuses. He didn’t provide details on how the order would work.
About 15 percent of the University of Maryland’s operating budget for the 2019 fiscal year relies on federal grants and contracts, adding up to more than $330 million.
In 2016, this university was the site of a vigorous free speech debate over a scheduled appearance of right-wing journalist and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
Hundreds signed a petition protesting Yiannopoulos’ invitation to the campus over concerns about his racist and sexist views. During an appearance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Yiannopoulos singled out and mocked a transgender student on stage.
Ultimately, the planned event at this university was canceled, since the group that had invited him to campus — Terps for Trump — did not file the proper paperwork or raise enough funding in time. Security fees would have totaled more than $2,000 to host Yiannopoulos’ incendiary “Dangerous Faggot Tour” at Ritchie Coliseum.
At the time, Yiannopoulos said he felt students’ rights had been violated. He claimed that security concerns allow universities to “un-invite speakers without outright banning them,” calling it “the oldest trick in the book.”
Yiannopoulos’ events have drawn significant protest all over the country.
In February 2017, a scheduled Yiannopoulos talk at the University of California, Berkeley prompted a peaceful protest that turned violent when additional protesters began setting fires and throwing rocks and bricks. Afterward, Trump tweeted that Berkeley’s government funding could be in jeopardy.
“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” he wrote.
Last spring, students and faculty at this university protested the invitation of Brexit proponent and ardent nationalist Nigel Farage for a debate with former Mexican President Vicente Fox, but the event continued as scheduled.
President Wallace Loh told the crowd at the debate that his office had received “many” letters asking for it to be canceled, but made clear his intention to continue welcoming controversial speakers to the campus.
“I am not so sure that we have been so successful in training you to be responsible citizens who know how to live rightly in a free society,” he said. “The role of a university is not to make ideas safe for students, it is to educate students.”