Can Trump pull funding from UC Berkeley? Not likely, experts say :- A University of California Berkeley spokesman says a small group turned protests violent, as Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak. The spokesman added that it’s not a proud day for the Berkeley campus. (Feb. 2) AP
President Donald Trump’s threat early Thursday to pull federal funding from the University of California’s flagship Berkeley campus over violent protests against a controversial speaker may sound serious, but it is essentially toothless, experts said.
Protests erupted on campus late Wednesday and the university canceled a scheduled speech by conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-proclaimed “troll” and editor for the conservative Breitbart News.
In response, Trump tweeted: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
The university’s defenders responded swiftly. California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a university regent, tweeted: “I’m appalled at your willingness to deprive over 38,000 students access to an education because of the actions of a few.”
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin on Thursday tweeted that destruction and violence “have no place in our community.” Unfortunately, he said the incident “provided the ultra-nationalist far right exactly the images they want to use to try to discredit” peaceful protesters in Berkeley and elsewhere.
But experts say Trump’s threat is an empty one, even in the face of Wednesday’s violence.
“There is currently no federal law that would allow the federal government to deny funding to an institution of higher education because they prohibited someone from speaking on campus,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the Washington, D.C-based American Council on Education (ACE), which represents college presidents.
The government can withdraw federal funding, he said, but it’s typically because of fraud or research misconduct. Even then, Hartle added, most research dollars are awarded — and withdrawn — through peer review. “So the ability of a president to sort of retaliate against a particular institution is pretty limited.”
The question arises from time to time, he said — during the Vietnam War, House lawmakers considered denying federal aid to students who participated in campus protests. But Hartle said there’s “no authority to do that under current law — and I think developing a way to do that could be very problematic.”
What began as a peaceful demonstration against Yiannopoulos’ invitation by the Berkeley College Republicans devolved into chaos as protesters threw smoke bombs, knocked down barriers, set fires and started fights, police said.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, the university said the violence “was instigated by a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest.”