Higher ed labor union AAUP slams Trump’s free speech executive order

A left-leaning nonprofit labor union representing professors nationwide wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump, condemning the campus free speech executive order Trump announced at CPAC.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) states that the proposal is “a dangerous solution to a largely nonexistent problem” and that its potential provisions “are more likely to stifle than encourage free expression and diversity of opinion.”

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“Given the important role of colleges and universities in debate, dissent, and the free exchange of ideas, the AAUP strongly supports freedom of expression on campus and the rights of faculty and students to invite speakers of their choosing,” the letter says. “We oppose, however, any executive action that interferes with the institutional autonomy of colleges and universities by undermining the role of faculty, administration, and governing board in institutional decision-making and the role of students in the formulation and application of institutional policies affecting student affairs.”

The nonprofit calls on university and college faculty to add their names to the letter to show that they oppose the free speech executive order.

“The AAUP strongly supports freedom of expression on campus,” AAUP Senior Program Officer Gwendolyn Bradley told Campus Reform. “We also support the autonomy of colleges and universities and the roles of college faculty, administration, and governing board in making decisions about their college or university. And we support the role of students in making institutional policies affecting student affairs. Therefore, we oppose legislative and executive interference into college and university governance. Allowing politicians to interfere in campus policy sets a dangerous precedent.”

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The group also sent out a press release including a link to its site One Faculty, One Resistance and its Free Speech on Campus campaign. The campaign says that the Goldwater Institute is undermining higher education with “unnecessary ‘free speech’ legislation.” The AAUP provides a toolkit to aid university faculty in opposing free speech legislation.

The AAUP is not the only party opposing the executive order. The University of California wrote a statement calling the executive order “misguided and unnecessary, even with UC stating that it is affirming its “commitment to free speech”.

Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, whose Chicago Statement on free speech has been adopted by dozens of universities nationwide, also wrote in opposition to it. 

The potential executive order “opens the door to any number of troubling policies over time that the Federal government, whatever the political party involved, might adopt on such matters,” Zimmer argued. “A committee in Washington passing judgment on the speech policies and activities of educational institutions, judgments that may change according to who is in power and what policies they wish to promulgate, would be a profound threat to open discourse on campus.”

But the California College Republicans released a statement applauding the order saying, “the Executive Board of the California College Republicans is excited to see the President stand in solidarity with our fight against campus bias. We are confident that the President will follow through on his order, and protect conservative college students.”

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Trump announced the campus free speech executive order after inviting Leadership Institute Field Representative Hayden Williams on stage. Williams, an employee of Campus Reform's parent organization, suffered injuries after being punched at the University of California-Berkeley while helping a conservative group recruit new members for its organization.

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