UW not worried about funding after 'unnecessary' Trump exec. order, but past events could pose a challenge
President Donald Trump signed on Thursday an executive order aimed at ensuring free speech on college campuses by threatening to take federal research money away from universities if they are found to have violated the First Amendment.
In 2017, the University of Washington-Seattle received the second-most federal funding for research in the country at $952,738,000—being only behind Johns Hopkins University, according to recent Campus Reform research.
Victor Balta, senior director of media relations at UW, told Campus Reform that the school believes the executive order is “unnecessary," despite a slew of incidents at UW campuses involving conservative students being targeted with violence and their free speech silenced, as Campus Reform has documented over several years.
"The University of Washington adheres to the values of free speech and expression guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, making this executive order unnecessary,” the spokesman said. “Every day on our campuses, we debate societal issues with intelligence and passion – it’s the hallmark of our mission as educators and learners."
The college spokesman made the statement, even after the university instituted a free speech policy following a violent February 2017 protest, which was met with backlash over concerns that it would instead promote censorship.
“The new rule gives the school and campus police a free pass to charge as much as they want for events at any point (even raising the costs during the event is now permitted),” the College Republicans said in a statement at the time.
But Balta shared a different perspective with Campus Reform.
“The policy we used to recover security fees was challenged in court and settled,” he said. “The University of Washington strongly supports a free and open exchange of opinions and ideas. We have a responsibility to our campus community to ensure that safety and security are maintained during any event held on campus, and we are pleased that the settlement preserves our ability to develop a long-term solution that balances free speech and campus safety without passing the burden of sometimes significant security costs on to all students.”
Campus Reform previously reported that on the UW campus in April 2018, a student was arrested for throwing paint on College Republican members who were tabling to promote a pro-gun panel.
Another instance, as reported by Campus Reform, occurred in January 2018, when the UW College Republicans set up a DACA booth to create a discussion about the immigration program.
“Someone came up and cut one of our signs with a boxcutter according to one of our members who was there,” Chevy Swanson, president of the UW CRs at the time, told Campus Reform after the incident. “We also noticed that one of the officers of the UW [Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán] club posted on Twitter a call for someone to come ‘shut us down,’ which was obviously done by whoever destroyed our decoration.”
Balta also addressed these incidents in a statement to Campus Reform, saying, "UW does not tolerate harassment or intimidation of anyone on our campus, regardless of the viewpoints they are expressing. We uphold free speech constantly and consistently in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and UWPD has clearly responded to such incidents and will continue to do so as needed and when criminal incidents are reported."
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