In the latest example of President Trump's baldfaced pandering to a rabid conservative base that gets worked up every time they see UC Berkeley in a headline, he's signing an executive order about free speech on college campuses.
Inspired by the February 19 incident that didn't involve anyone attending or employed by the University — in which a conservative activist was sucker-punched on camera allegedly by a 28-year-old non-student who was passing through Sproul Plaza — Trump is now sending a message to all universities that they must certify policies protecting free speech or else risk jeopardizing federal research grants.
As the Associated Press reports, Trump is expected to sign an executive order to that effect on Thursday. And per the AP, "Berkeley and other colleges have countered that they already have policies protecting free speech and don’t need an executive order."
It's primarily a symbolic move, obviously, and the cause of "free speech" for conservatives on liberal college campuses has been a "cause célèbre for conservative activists," as Vox writes.
Trump first promised the executive order during his marathon CPAC speech earlier this month, after bringing the assault victim, Hayden Williams, on stage with him. At the time, the university issued a statement saying the incident had been "willfully distorted" by the conservative media.
Throughout 2016 and 2017, UC Berkeley became ground zero for conservative ire, some of it stoked by Milo Yiannopoulos, who repeatedly tried to come to the university to speak, prompting large protests. He announced something called Free Speech Week in September 2017, including a roster of speakers whom he may not even have contacted, and it was ultimately called a "fiction" by a UC Berkeley Chancellor.
Following this most recent incident, the university said, "We readily admit that this university — like every single town, city, county, and state in this country — is unable to prevent a lone bad actor who was neither employee or student from engaging in reprehensible behavior on a campus spanning 1,200 acres and a population of 50,000 people."
And UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof spoke to local site Berkeleyside noting that the school had hosted multiple conservative speakers in the last couple of years with little or no fanfare. "Although we made every effort to inform the media, not a single outlet reported on the incontestable fact that these conservative student groups hosted a large number of conservative speakers, including Charlie Kirk (founder of Turning Point USA), Rick Santorum, Dennis Prager, Heather MacDonald, Candace Owens, Dave Rubin, Steve Simpson, Antonia Okafor and Allie Stuckey. Not a single disruption. No opposition. No protest. No coverage," Mogulof said.
Photo: Wally Gobetz