Betsy DeVos is probably the most controversial appointment by President Donald Trump among conservatives. I have seen a lot of concern from people on my side of the aisle that she won’t do anything to advance conservative causes on the education front. Conservatives and Republicans are pretty split on the issue of charter schools, but two topics that most people on the right side of the aisle generally tend to agree on are federally mandated standards, and suppression of free speech on college campuses. On that second issue, almost nobody has been fighting against discrimination in higher education harder or more successfully than FIRE – the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
FIRE has been a thorn in the side of left-wing campus administrators for almost two decades – fighting back against any attempt to suppress free speech, religious liberty, or due process. They’ve been an advocate for conservative and libertarian groups nationwide that have had events shut down, materials destroyed, and access revoked due to religious or political views that contradict those of liberal professors and administrators. It’s safe to say that a member of one of these groups is the last person any liberal would want in charge of higher education in America.
This, however, that is exactly what Betsy DeVos has done. According to Inside Higher Ed, she has appointed Adam Kissell, the former Vice President of Programs and Director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at FIRE, to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs at the federal Department of Education.
According to the Office of Post Secondary Education, the Higher Education Programs, which is run by the Deputy Assistant Secretary, “administers programs that broaden access to higher education and strengthen the capacity of colleges and universities. HEP also coordinates a number of higher education-related activities with states. HEP grant projects are awarded primarily to institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations and agencies, and state agencies.”
Basically, they control the purse strings and implementation of a wide-ranging group of federal higher education programs. This will hopefully provide excellent opportunities to incentive college administrators to more equitably enforce free speech standards across the board. Donald Trump has already threatened to pull federal funding from colleges such as U.C. Berkeley that discriminate against groups that hold views contrary to those of their professors and leadership.
It should be encouraging for liberty-loving conservatives to see these kinds of appointments coming from Secretary DeVos, and we can only hope this is one of many.
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