By: Parker Williamson
President Donald Trump signed an executive order addressing free speech on college campuses.
The order is supposed to withhold federal grant money from institutions that are believed to not be promoting the freedom of inquiry. Trump said that he is fighting for the rights of students across America.
“You [students] refuse to be silenced by powerful institutions and close-minded critics of which there are many,” Trump said. “You [students] have fought bravely for your rights and now you have a president who is fighting for you. I am with you all the way.”
The order encourages environments that are fostering open and diverse debates. Trump invited a handful of students to share their stories of their freedom of speech restricted on campus. One young woman shared her story of being told to put out trigger-warnings in order to be able to share her pro-life message. Another told her story of not being able to handout valentine’s with a Christian message on them.
Trump said that he would continue fighting for the rights of students across the board, including some talk of fixing student loan debt. He also said that he wants all students to have the right to have their own beliefs and opinions openly on campus.
“To every student and young person here today and watching, don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you know is right, from asking questions, from challenging the powerful, or from speaking your mind. That’s the primary reason we’re here right now,” Trump said. “Never, ever quit. Never give in, and never back down. Keep standing up for your values, for your classmates, and for your country.”
David Liechti is the chair of the board of governors at Missouri Western. He said that he believes this order will have potentially little effect on the campus.
“I am all for free expression and the sharing of ideas,” Liechti said. “I am not aware of any issues at Missouri Western that would imply that we have an issue with this.”
Liechti also said that he feels it is very important that everyone, including students, should feel comfortable expressing their ideas on campus. He feels that Missouri Western does a good job of making a good environment for ideas and opinions to be shared by students.
Edwin Taylor, chair of the Department of Economics, Political Science and Sociology, feels that the order is largely symbolic. He also said that he doesn’t think an executive order is needed to ensure freedom of speech at universities.
“I am a hardcore free-speech advocate in that I would much rather have all ideas open and discussed,” Taylor said. “Then we can have a conversation on which ideas are good and bad. There is no idea that we should be afraid of engaging.”
He also said that if a speech is going to promote illegal action or encourage people to cause harm to others, then it shouldn’t be allowed on campuses. Taylor said that this order could deepen the divide currently present in politics, especially at universities
“Everyone has a right to express an opinion,” Taylor said. “But, there are times when that opinion is not useful.”
Taylor encourages students to express their opinions and ideas in a helpful and non-hostile way. He wants students to engage in critical thinking and keep an open mind to all ideas around them.