NASPA Response to Executive Order on Free Speech on College Campuses

Civic Engagement Policy and Advocacy
March 22, 2019

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order directing a series of twelve federal agencies to require college and universities that receive federal funding to certify that their campuses comply with 1st Amendment rights of free speech on campus. Ostensibly, one of these agencies could withhold funding if an investigation found that the university was infringing on students 1st Amendment rights. 

This new executive order largely applies to public colleges and universities although private institutions will need to continue to comply with their stated institutional policies regarding free inquiry.

The principles of the 1st Amendment are at the very heart of the college experience and are vigorously defended and supported at American colleges and universities. The right of free speech and the well-established “marketplace of ideas” are the foundation upon which campuses manage speakers, art exhibits, protests, entertainment. and countless other activities on today’s college campus. Embedded in virtually every campus are codes of conduct and policies that are designed to support these important principles and simultaneously safeguard the rights of students, faculty, and staff to experience a respectful, caring, and safe campus.

Nothing in the Executive Order changes what we already value and have been doing to create opportunities for divergent perspectives on the most difficult issues to be raised freely on campus. For more information on the finer points of managing free speech on campus, NASPA has an excellent resource: The First Amendment and the Inclusive Campus Effective Strategies for Leaders in Student Affairs.

NASPA will continue to monitor and communicate to the general membership about how changes at the federal level impact individual work on campus.