President Trump on Thursday threatened to revoke federal funding from the University of California, Berkeley—money that supports the school’s scholarships, scientific research and more.
Trump’s statement followed protests on the campus that turned destructive and forced the cancellation of a Wednesday event with controversial far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos.
“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” Trump said in a tweet.
It’s not clear if Trump intends to act on the threat, but he made similar arguments on the campaign trail, faulting universities for “extreme censorship” and promising to end political correctness.
If he did take action, such a move would impact student financial aid, research funding and healthcare. The entire University of California system receives about $8.5 billion federal funding annually. That includes $1.6 billion in student aid and $3 billion in research funds.
At U.C. Berkeley, more than half of the school’s annual research funding comes from the federal government. The university was awarded $307 million in federal funding for research in the fiscal year ending June 2016—a sum largely contributed by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. That represented 55% of the total research funding awarded that year. The remaining research funding comes from state agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Among the projects that benefit from such funding, the groundbreaking CRISPR technique, which can edit DNA, emerged in part from National Science Foundation funding at Berkeley. Jennifer Doudna, a molecular and cell biologist at Berkeley, is one of the scientists who developed the technique.
Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California and a Democrat running for governor in 2018, criticized Trump’s threat in a tweet, saying he is “appalled at your willingness to deprive over 38,000 students access to an education because of the actions of a few.”
University Chancellor Nicholas Dirks last week voiced support for the right of students to host Yiannopoulos on campus, while also condemning him for “engaging in hate speech.” He originally declined to cancel the event but directed students to guidelines for protesting safely.
“We could not plan for the unprecedented,” Dirks said in a statement Thursday, adding that a large group “infiltrated a crowd of peaceful students and used violent tactics to close down the event.”
“The violence last night was an attack on the fundamental values of the university, which stands for and helps to maintain and nurture open inquiry and an inclusive civil society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation,” he said.
His statement did not mention Trump’s threat to cut funding.
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