Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the UC Berkeley Law School, argued recently that President Trump’s free speech executive order is unconstitutional.
Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman, the Chancellor of UC Irvine, penned a column for the Los Angeles Times at the end of March. In the column, Chemerinsky and Gillman argued that President Trump’s recent executive order on campus free speech is unconstitutional.
“It is the policy of the Federal Government to: encourage institutions to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate, including through compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions,” the executive order reads.
Chemerinsky and Gillman’s primary concern centers on the fact that the executive order fails to set compliance guidelines. The pair fears that the lack of guidelines will give the government the license to arbitrarily pull funding from colleges and universities.
It is tempting to shrug and say that this changes nothing. Colleges and universities receiving federal funds already must comply with all applicable “laws, regulations and policies” and what university doesn’t believe in “free inquiry.”
But what makes the executive order so disturbing is that it doesn’t set clear guidelines for what colleges and universities need to do to comply, leaving them uncertain of how to ensure that their federal funding is not in jeopardy.
Chemerinsky and Gillman then take it a step further by arguing that there is no free speech crisis on American campuses.
Beyond that, the Trump executive order is unnecessary. There is no crisis concerning free speech on campuses in the United States. Every day on virtually every campus, speeches are given without incident, including some by very controversial speakers. Walk across either of our campuses on just about any day of the week, and the cacophony of diverse speakers is readily apparent.
In March, University of California President Janet Napolitano said that the executive order was “unnecessary.”
“The executive order that President Trump signed today is unnecessary,” she wrote. “Like many higher education institutions across the country, the University of California is ground zero for robust exchanges of ideas and differing viewpoints.”