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Higher Education Watch
Could Trump Cut Off Funding from UC Berkeley?

The violent protests at UC Berkeley that ran Milo Yiannopoulos off campus were probably the best public relations gift the young administration has received to date. They also gave the President an opportunity to do what he does best: Exploit a political disconnect between elites and the median voter (i.e., on special snowflake ideology on college campuses) and then make an outrageous suggestion via a spontaneous tweet designed to send his opponents into fits of hysteria that would discredit them further. In this case, Trump raised hackles by suggesting that the federal government might cut off funding to California’s flagship public university.

Trump’s tweets rarely reflect well-considered policy proposals, but they often provide clues as to his underlying impulses—which, as we have seen in the past few days, he is often quite serious about carrying out. So while it’s obviously not the case that Trump can unilaterally revoke hundreds of millions of dollars of research grants and financial aid from one institution because of a single violent protest, there are ways that he could follow up on his proposal to sanction public colleges that do “not allow free speech.”

In fact, during the last wave of debates over free expression on college campuses in the early 1990s, some legislators tried to do just that. In 1991, Representative Henry Hyde introduced the Collegiate Speech Protection Act, which would have barred federally subsidized colleges from punishing students for First Amendment protected speech (the bill initially won bipartisan support, including from the ACLU, but later floundered after colleges argued it would infringe on their autonomy).

To be clear, the events that took place at UC Berkeley yesterday would not have qualified the university for de-funding under the 1991 bill. However, it’s possible to imagine different statutory language that would require colleges receiving federal funding to make a good-faith effort to protect student speech rights, so that patterns of violence shutting down speakers would raise eyebrows at the Department of Education.

And even without any new legislation, enterprising bureaucrats at the Department of Education have various tools at their disposal to put pressure on universities for political reasons. As Walter Olson points out: “The power that the Department of Education and allied agencies have gathered to themselves over university life has steadily mounted, often against feeble resistance from the universities themselves, as in the Title IX instance.” If a feminist speaker had encountered violent protests that forced her to leave campus, it’s possible to imagine a Title IX “hostile environment” investigation. What if right-wing Department of Education lawyers argued that the resistance to Yiannopoulos was due to his sexual orientation (he is openly gay) or even his gender?

Our own view is that any of such measures should be avoided. Universities should generally be held accountable by market pressures and in the court of public opinion. The wanton use of federal investigations to bring pressure to bear on universities carries an enormous risk of abuse and politicization—as indeed occurred during the Obama years. And in all likelihood, the Trump Administration’s Department of Education will agree with this assessment.

That said, if the candidate wants to hassle the People’s Republic of Berkeley, he has a much easier route for doing so: Announce that he will go to the campus to give a major address on political correctness. The Secret Service won’t let fireworks-wielding anarchists shut him down.

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  • Andrew Allison

    The President is, indeed, playing the left like a fiddle. As the recent election demonstrated rather clearly, the rest of the county cares neither for nor about the nonsense emanating from the Socialist Republic of California.

    • rpabate

      I think you are correct. The more Trump outrages the Left into these kinds of acts, the more the silent majority will take it out on the Democrats in the next election.

      • Johnathan Swift Jr.

        This seems to parallel the situation in the 1960s, when the left went nuts, or kept going nuts, with the election of a liberal Republican who was seen as a fascist because he advocated for law and order at a time when cities were burning and campuses were being occupied by leftist idiots. The left kept up its antics and thus Nixon was given his second term on a platter, a term he threw away with his Watergate stupidity, skullduggery during an election he had no chance of losing. I suspect that the four year riot – if the left can keep this up, which it probably can as Soros and his allies are bankrolling all the rioters and the astroturf effort – may result in a comfortable re-election for President Trump.

    • EMyrt

      And if the leftists in the SFBA were to convince every single hold out to vote their way (fat chance, us intransigents are pretty stubborn now), it wouldn’t make a rat’s ass worth of difference to the next election.
      They have no realistic goals, no strategy and old tactics. I’ve lived in the belly of the beast for 30+ years now. It is so good to finally have leverage for push back.

      • Andrew Allison

        The holdouts don’t vote because they recognize that the State (not just the SFBA) is irredeemable: you may have seen the recent report that the government employees who keep the Dimocrats in power while contributing precisely nothing to the GDP make twice as much as private citizens. The inevitable implosion is going to be really ugly. I’ve lived in CA for almost half-a-century and have managed to insulate myself from most of the madness. The exception: if/when Prop 13 is repealed in a desperate attempt to make ends meet, I’m outta here. The might just be avoided if President Trump is able to persuade Congress to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, which would home values back to earth and bankrupt the State (which, since a State can’t file, would result in a plea for Federal relief from a Republican Congress and Administration LOL).

        • Johnathan Swift Jr.

          I will offer you some free advice (which is probably what it is worth). I would leave California before Prop 13 is repealed or replaced, which the government has been salivating about for decades. Once the deed is done, then perhaps everyone on a fixed income will be doing the same thing – leaving – and the housing market may collapse, killing the goose that laid the golden age. Unintended consequences are a bitch, a phrase that I think Karl Popper came up with.

          Progressive California is and has done everything it can do to push the Middle Class and companies out of the once “Golden State,” so the government has become increasingly dependent on high wage earners, which the former state actuary told them again and again was a recipe for disaster in a recession. Meanwhile, more and more public employees are retiring on six figure pensions, a top heavy situation that I suspect will be unsustainable in the long run as more and more people are dependent on government services and handouts and fewer and fewer wealthy people remain to pay for them. Add to this the fact that so many public employees go out of state to collect their fat pensions, not even remaining to pay any state taxes.

          Logic would dictate that anything that can’t be sustained, won’t be and as pensions eat up the budget for handouts, those on the government dime will start looking to do some income redistribution on their own. Furthermore, since the school system officially sanctions the hatred of white people with every college student marinating in “white privilege,” classes and similar nonsense, many minority residents will want to make war on white people as so many of the recent rioters wish to do.

          So, it seems like a good time for anyone who doesn’t have Secret Service protection to flee the state for someplace more hospitable like Utah, Texas, Idaho, Wyoming or the like.

          • Andrew Allison

            I’ve thought about the impact of a flood of housing as those of us on fixed incomes flee. Fortunately, home prices are so completely insane in Coastal CA that even with a significant decline it won’t be hard to find another place to live.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      We will have to see whether Soros and his billions can keep the perpetual outrage machine going for four years. Right now President Donald J. Trump is flooding the zone and so they can’t isolate their target and kill it because there are too many of them. Additionally, they have accused every Republican as being a racist monster (Romney was going to put blacks “Back in Chains” according to plagiarist Uncle Joe Biden), so more and more people just tune them and the Democrats with bylines in the media out.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Nowhere in the Constitution is authority over Education granted to the Federal Government. The Dept. of Education is Unconstitutional, and all Federal funds spent are illegitimate. Trump can point this out and end the Dept. of Education and its spending. Education should be in the hands of the States and the People. That it’s not is why public education sucks.

    • LarryD

      I believe Grant said something like “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it.”

      The best way to get the Department of Education killed (a goal of conservatives since it was created), is to use it against the Progressive university culture, which has, frankly, gone barking mad. Protecting students rights is a good beginning.

  • Proud Skeptic

    There are enough systemic problems in the university systems to warrant some serious action. We have the Title IX “dear colleague” letter that set up kangaroo courts for sexual complaints. We have sanctuary campuses. Freedom of speech…TRUE freedom of speech…seems to have fallen out of favor.

  • J K Brown

    “colleges argued it would infringe on their autonomy”

    And how has that autonomy worked out over the last 20 years?

    Why should hard working Americans have their earnings taken to support institutions that oppose everything they stand for? Because the colleges educate? That is certainly not in evidence in the last few decades. In any case, the market can sort this out, if taxpayers dollars aren’t funneled to the universities to undermine the discipline of the market.

  • Fat_Man

    Cut off their funding. They don’t deserve it.

  • You can protest…but when you use violence, that is crossing a line.

  • rheddles

    Universities should generally be held accountable by market pressures and in the court of public opinion.

    Market pressures are exerted by those who pay for products and services. The ugly secret of the universities is that they suck at the federal teat as much as Lockheed. Universities should consider how Lockheed reacted to market pressure from its biggest customer.

  • Beauceron

    My general view is that citizens have underwritten the campus Left for far too long. We have seen the results– the humanities are dying out, a hollow shell of its former glory. Social justice has supplanted truth and beauty and moderates and conservatives have been all but purged from the academy. Universities, at least in the humanities, are no longer places of learning. They are indoctrination centers.

    You say “Universities should generally be held accountable by market pressures,” but that’s the point. With state and federal funding, universities are largely shielded from market pressures. They can do whatever they want. And what they want is only one voice to be heard: their own.

    Outside of the sciences, I don’t see why any university should receive federal funding.

  • TheDarkHelmet

    How about no federal funds, period? Why should the ‘flagship university’ of California get money from the taxes of steelworkers in Indiana or waitresses in Colorado?

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      Its amusing. Public officials are fine with massive violations of civil rights, the rights they are sworn to uphold, but it is Trump who is portrayed as the threat to civil liberties. On the left, the real threat is always downplayed while the false one emphasized. Its all projection of course, especially the cries of fascism by black suited thugs engaging in violence, modern brown shirts in the flesh.

  • SolonGone

    Every person who was involved in committing, planning, and funding the violence needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      What is needed is a DOJ investigation as people are being deprived of their civil rights. The 1st Amendment is useless if mob violence perpetrated by real fascists prevents its exercise. The federal government stepped in when blacks were being robbed of their civil rights by the Democrats and the KKK, their terrorist wing, in the 1950s and 1960s and its time for it to step in now as the Democrats and their communist allies rob people of their rights now.

  • Anthony
  • Only Nixon could go to China, only Trump could go to Berkeley? On the other hand, when *President* Trump (note your use of “candidate” in the last paragraph) went to UIC as a candidate, the true Fascists were out in full force, shutting down his speech despite Secret Service protection.

  • johngbarker

    The suppression of free speech is a greater threat to the Republic than the national debt,

  • texasjimbo

    Shorter WRM and Co.: “I don’t like what the left does, but they should certainly be allowed to keep doing it, even though they have completely co opted the federal government and used tax dollars to do it.” The administration at Berkley has winked at political extremist and stood by as those extremists abridged the rights of people (including students) the administration has profound political disagreements with via violence and intimidation. Of course the proper thing to do is to deprive the university of all federal money.

    • EMyrt


  • Arkeygeezer

    If Congress defeats the President’s nominations to a particuar cabinet department, does that not leave the President free to run the department himself with White House adivisors?

    Then he would be free not to nominate a replacement at his convenience. Meanwhile he could clean out the department of people that “serve at the pleasure of the President.” He could “slow walk” that nomination for a long time.

    This would build a lot of business for Lawyers and Judges!

  • EMyrt

    Even by the low standards of lying pols we have in CA, Gavin Newsom is a tool.

  • ctobserver

    “The wanton use of federal investigations to bring pressure to bear on universities carries an enormous risk of abuse and politicization”

    I always thought this was the intention of federal investigations and “guidance” during the Obama years, not an unfortunate consequence.

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