Sunflower staffers debate Trump executive order on free speech


Brian Hayes

Student body president Joseph Shepard speaks to the crowd during the “No Ban, No Wall” peace rally held outside of the Rhatigan Student Center on Tuesday afternoon. The rally showed love and support to anyone who felt relegated after President Trump’s recent executive orders. Shepard and speakers insisted that everyone no matter or country of origin is welcome on WSU’s campus. (Jan. 31, 2017 file photo)

Executive order a government overreach, stunt

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order “protecting” free speech on college campuses that would withhold federal research grants from campuses that don’t protect free speech. What sounds good in theory is nothing but a political stunt.

This order simply affirms already existing laws, but it doesn’t define how campus policies will be reviewed or what standards will be applied and how. In response to the executive order, the Student Press Law Center, an organization that promotes the First Amendment for student journalists since 1974, issued a statement raising concerns about these shortcomings.

While they applauded the administration for protecting free speech, they expressed concern that this executive order advances only certain political agendas and can hurt free speech for everyone else. This is true.

Without a means of implementation — concrete standards that universities will be audited on by a specific agency — this is nothing but a stunt to protect certain agendas.

You can’t protect free speech by focusing on one side. Free speech must be protected, but not like this. Not with two pieces of paper with the president’s signature.

Historically, executive orders aren’t effective — especially compared to congressional law.

The effectiveness of this executive order is made clear by Wichita State’s response to the signing of this order. WSU, which receives a yellow-light rating from The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and also receives millions in federal grants for research, doesn’t have to do anything to comply with the new “standards.”

FIRE is a group that advocates for free speech on college campuses around the country and has written multiple letters to WSU for violating free speech rights for student’s, most famously when the Student Government Association voted not recognize WSU’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). The decision was later overturned.

If this executive order actually had any substance, WSU would have to make some changes.

For instance, WSU has specified areas on campus for “First Amendment activities” that also have to be approved ahead of time. This is the university trying to directly control the speech that is occurring on campus. This executive order should require the university to change that — it doesn’t.

— Kylie Cameron, Advertising Manager

Trump’s executive order protects free speech on campus

Last week, President Donald Trump issued an executive order aimed at protecting free speech on college campuses. The executive order threatens to pull federal research grant funding to universities who censor or do not allow free and open dialogue on campus. This has largely been in response to instances of conservative students and activists being attacked for expressing their views.

Earlier this month, a male student at UC Berkeley had his phone slapped out of his hand and was punched in the face for tabling with conservative group, Turning Point USA. On another occasion at the University of Texas last year, the Young Conservatives of Texas, student group set out signs in support of then Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. A mob of around 200 students clashed with that group, surrounded them, tearingapart their signs, and yelling explicit language at the group until police showed up.

Even at home in Kansas, just last year, the student body vice president at Emporia State University was harassed for a Facebook post she wrote that supported Kris Kobach for governor in the 2018 elections. After her post, she was threatened by officials in the ESU Office of Diversity and Inclusion and members of SGA to be impeached from her position. Eventually, both groups backed down on their threats.

Wichita State, along with all other colleges in the country, are places where all sides of an argument and every perspective should be open to discussion. In 2016, a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey found that 54 percent of college students believed that campus climate prevents them from speaking freely, and the same poll rose to 61 percent in 2018. If one side of an argument is shut out, then academia does itself a disservice, and the value of a degree will be degraded.

WSU has not had a major incident of free speech suppression recentlty and should continue to do what it can to keep it that way in the future. The president’s actions aimed at protecting the First Amendment on campus should be applauded.

— Drake Robinson, Columnist