How would Trump's college free speech executive order work?

When the President addressed CPAC yesterday, he launched into a wide-ranging speech that lasted for more than two hours. I wasn’t in the audience this year because of a scheduling conflict, but from all reports, the speech was a real stem-winder, reminiscent of some of his longer campaign rally addresses. One item, in particular, seemed to catch the crowd off-guard and drew a very positive response. Donald Trump announced that he would soon be signing an executive order that would cut federal funding to colleges and universities that don’t support free speech for all students and guests, including conservatives. (WaPo)

A new executive order from the White House will aim to make federal research funding for colleges and universities contingent on their support for “free speech,” President Trump said Saturday.

The announcement, during Trump’s address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, appeared to target complaints by some university critics that institutions of higher education stifle right-wing viewpoints.

“If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many great young people, and old people, to speak,” Trump said, bringing onstage a young conservative, Hayden Williams, who was physically attacked last month while tabling for a conservative organization at the University of California at Berkeley.

This is yet another announcement where I find myself somewhat conflicted. My more emotional, gut reaction to this is to applaud. The nation’s college campuses have been devolving into hopeless liberal echo chambers for decades and at this point, it’s pretty much open season on conservative ideas or even balanced debates. Any schools that accept federal funding find themselves subject to regulations covering how they operate. If they don’t operate in compliance with those instructions their funding may be at risk. So in that regard, I’d be tempted to support such an executive order.

But at the same time, the idea of the federal government sticking its fingers that deeply into any organization’s operations should rankle small government conservatives. And we always need to keep in mind the old rule about exercising caution when granting the government more power when they do something we like. Sooner or later someone else will be in charge and they’ll then use that authority to frustrate us. Just look at how badly the government abused Title IX authority under the previous administration. They encouraged schools to lock law enforcement out of sexual assault investigations and forced them to allow men into the ladies’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers.

Also, while it seemed to me that any sort of grants (given the very nature of the grant application process) should be subject to refusals, we’ve learned recently that the courts frequently see it another way. Just look at the efforts by the White House to restrict DOJ grants to sanctuary cities. Federal judges in multiple cases have ruled that the government can’t stop sending them the money. (We’ll have more on that subject here later today.) The Supremes haven’t weighed in on it yet, but it’s far from being a done deal. This order will no doubt also be challenged by liberals somewhere in the Ninth Circuit and similarly bogged down.