SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- (ABC4 News) – President Trump has signed an executive order threatening to yank federal funding to universities that don’t comply with free speech guidelines outlined by the administration.
A state lawmaker who has been pushing similar legislation likes the move but says her work isn’t done.
With the stroke of his pen, the president put higher education institutions on alert.
“Taxpayer dollars should not subsidize anti-First Amendment institutions, and that’s exactly what they are, anti-First Amendment,” said Trump.
The executive order directs grant agencies to ensure universities are complying with federal free speech laws.
Those concerns have flared recently following instances of alleged violence against student activists.
Representative Kim Coleman says students in Utah are being silenced too.
“They are afraid to ask questions, they are afraid to say things in a classroom, they are afraid to participate in a dialogue in a classroom, they are even expressing to me that they are afraid to write certain positions in their assignments,” said Coleman, (R) West Jordan.
She ran a bill this session to clearly define the line between harassment and free speech on campuses in our state.
“Things like threats, and intimidation, harassment are not protected, but we are protected in expressing a whole range of opinions, feelings, thoughts,” she said.
That bill cleared the House but went down big in the Senate.
Coleman says she’s glad to see the president bring attention to the issue, but she believes the executive order is ambiguous.
That’s why she intends to press forward with her local legislation.
“Our system of higher education, that’s our responsibility, in our state, our state legislature, our governor and his board of regents to protect our students,” Coleman said.
The executive order also requires institutions to be more transparent with prospective students about the cost of an education.
Coleman ran a state bill on that back in 2017 that passed and was signed into law.
The idea is to give students as much information as possible to make informed decisions about their career path.