UC President says Trump freedom of speech order 'unnecessary'

By Bay City News Service

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday protecting freedom of speech on college campuses but University of California President Janet Napolitano said it's "unnecessary."

The order directs agencies that make federal grants to ensure that colleges are complying with the law and their own policies to promote free inquiry and debate but it doesn't tie student-aid money to compliance.

Trump criticized the University of California at Berkeley recently when conservative activist Hayden Williams was punched in the face while recruiting for his organization at a table in the university's Sproul Plaza.

Neither Williams nor the man who was arrested and charged with attacking him are UC Berkeley students.

Napolitano said in a statement, "Like many higher education institutions across the country, the University of California is ground zero for robust exchanges of ideas and differing viewpoints."

Napolitano said, "UC's policies already align with applicable laws protecting free speech, a fundamental tenet of our democracy and the guiding principle of academic rigor. We have established a national free speech center to explore the evolving dynamics of the First Amendment on campuses."

She said, "The university has spent significant resources on security and logistical support to facilitate the expression of diverse speakers and opinions. A simple visit to any of our campuses would underscore the superfluous nature of this executive order."

Napolitano added, "We do not need the federal government to mandate what already exists: our longstanding, unequivocal support for freedom of expression. That tradition is alive and thriving on all of our campuses."

She said, "This executive order will only muddle policies surrounding free speech, while doing nothing to further the aim of the First Amendment."