WSJ: Colleges That Don’t Protect Free Speech Should Lose Funding

AP Photo/Valentina Petrova
AP Photo/Valentina Petrova

An opinion column published in the Wall Street Journal this week argues that universities that don’t uphold free expression principles should lose federal funding.

Two members of the American Enterprise Institute argued in a new column this week that universities receiving federal funding should be required to uphold free expression principles. “Here’s a straightforward idea that would be easy to put into practice: Require schools to assure free speech and inquiry as a condition of accepting federal research funding,” Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison wrote. “In addition to subsidizing tuition and providing student loans, Washington disburses billions of dollars to colleges and universities for research—nearly $38 billion in fiscal 2015 alone.”

“Leveraging federal money is one way to discourage campus speech restrictions. Federal research funds should come with contractual provisions that obligate the recipient schools to guarantee open discourse,” they continued. “Colleges should be required to offer assurances that their policies do not restrict constitutionally protected speech or expression and that they will commit to safeguarding open inquiry to the best of their ability. Violating such assurances would be grounds for loss of funds and render the school ineligible for future research dollars.”

Hess and Addison argue that those studying engineering and biology would be forced to engage in the campus culture wars because their federal research dollars would be on the line.

“Tying research funding to free speech would give a stake to serious scientists in fields like engineering and biology. These scholars traditionally have left the campus culture wars to their more politicized colleagues in the humanities and social sciences,” they add. “Under this plan, they would suddenly have an incentive to help push higher education back to its intellectual roots. The same goes for college presidents, many of whom have found it easier to placate the radical fringe than to defend free inquiry. With federal research funds on the line, they would suddenly face a new financial and political calculus.”


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