Portland State University administrators said today they don't think a presidential executive order on campus speech will affect the school's funding, but they don't know how it will be enforced.
President Donald Trump today signed an executive order that threatens to take away federal research funding for universities and colleges if they do not protect free speech for students of all political views. That order is widely interpreted as a broadside at schools with progressive student bodies that try to disrupt campus appearances by right-wing or other dissenting speakers.
That would, of course, affect PSU—a famously leftist and notoriously fractious campus where students have disrupted speakers including the fired Google engineer James Damore.
Public universities are already bound to uphold the First Amendment for all students, but Trump's order will add that same stipulation to colleges vouching for research funding. When they apply for funding, they are now required to show that they are compliant with the order. The White House has not yet explained how colleges and universities will prove their compliance.
A university spokesman told WW that it has no reason to think their research funding will change.
"We support free speech and the First Amendment. In fact, we are on the front lines of free speech as a public university," said Chris Broderick, associate vice president for communications.
In a statement released following the order, PSU said, "Portland State has policies and procedures for students, faculty, staff and visitors that are consistent with the executive order in protecting free speech rights such as lawful protests and demonstrations while also protecting the rights of individuals against threats, discrimination and harassment."
Broderick adds: "The executive order has general statements about compliance with free speech, but [we] don't see anything specific from [the Department of Education] on reporting or enforcement or penalties."
No student groups have yet approached the administration about the order, Broderick said.
Trump has been outspoken about what he believes is the left wing's attempt to stifle right wing free speech. He alleges that right wing media, advocacy groups and individuals have been stripped of their constitutional freedoms.
The order reads, in part: "Free inquiry is an essential feature of our Nation's democracy, and it promotes learning, scientific discovery, and economic prosperity. We must encourage institutions to appropriately account for this bedrock principle in their administration of student life and to avoid creating environments that stifle competing perspectives."
Trump first mentioned the executive order in a speech in early March given at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He cited an example of a conservative activist who was punched at the University of California-Berkeley while recruiting for his right-wing group.
"If they want our dollars and we give them by the billions, they've got to allow people to speak," Trump said to the crowd.