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President Dwight Eisenhower's warning about the relationship between government funding and higher education was prescient, and it is being ignored today. 

He foresaw the domination of the "nation’s scholars" and worried that government grant funding could lead to an unholy alignment of our academic elite with the government. This concern has become a reality: throughout the country, professors on college campuses have been recruited to develop tools for monitoring and restricting discourse, betraying the values of free speech.

For example, the University of Wisconsin has been awarded a $5 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a system that can detect and "strategically correct" what the government perceives as misinformation relating to COVID, elections, and vaccines. This new grant adds to the previous $7.5 million grant awarded by the NSF to ten universities to develop anti-misinformation tools as part of the "Trust & Authenticity in Communication Systems" initiative.

This is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to revive the Biden administration’s Disinformation Governance Board with the intent to "intervene" on social media platforms, and incorporate these tools into "local, national, and international newsrooms."


This government initiative is reminiscent of the 2003 Total Information Awareness (TIA) program through which the U.S. government provided over $100 million in grants to universities such as Carnegie Mellon University and MIT to develop a program aimed to mine every American’s digital footprint. The program’s elements were later incorporated into the National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM program, which was a clear abuse of power and violated the individual privacy rights Americans. 

These powerful monitoring tools go against the core principles of the Constitution and can easily be abused to push political agendas. By closely collaborating with the government to regulate speech, the autonomy of higher education institutions as knowledge and research hubs is compromised, eroding public trust in these institutions.

These concerns are not unfounded.​ The government has a history of spreading misinformation, such as the Gulf of Tonkin, WMDs in Iraq, and Bountygate. Higher education should be more skeptical, particularly after recent incidents like the CDC's Chief of Digital Media, Carol Crawford pushed Twitter to censor "unapproved opinions," some of which were correct. And, the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration were slandered in a coordinated attack by government officials, including Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins.

The effort to control speech and influence the media threatens the foundations of liberty. In the past, many professors would have been appalled if government officials censored particular viewpoints. Unfortunately, today an increasing number of professors seem to condone such censorship. Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona Law Professor Andrew Keane Woods argue in The Atlantic that China has the right approach when it comes to internet surveillance, speech controls, and censorship. They suggest that America should adopt a more authoritarian approach similar to communist China.

The dangers of grant funding are compounded by the fact that the academic and political elites often come from the same social and intellectual circles. Richard Stengel, a former Obama administration official and ex-president of the National Constitution Center, are among those who share the view that free speech is a "design flaw." This dangerous notion is gaining traction among a growing number of individuals, including in academia.

The irony is that individuals in academia were once known to champion nonconformity and intellectual diversity. Now, they are the ones who have succumbed to, and push for, conformity to the government’s demands.

Critical inquiry is no longer welcome. Some academics have become instruments of political propaganda, where scholars are more likely to produce results that support the government's policies and goals. In some cases, government funding can be contingent on the acceptance of certain research findings in published works, which inevitably compromises academic independence and integrity.


Westminster College

A general view during the college commencement ceremony for Westminister College on June 1, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Natalie Cass/Getty Images) ((Photo by Natalie Cass/Getty Images))

Taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund projects that undermine core American principles such as free speech and thought. Universities should be prohibited from collaborating with the government to develop tools for monitoring and regulating speech. 


Americans should also pressure higher education institutions to reaffirm their commitments to academic freedom and reject these grants. This will ensure that these institutions remain independent centers of knowledge and research, free from government interference.

A healthy democracy requires a diversity of opinions and perspectives, as well as robust public debate. Government grant funding has turned higher education into an extension of the government to push a radical agenda that threatens to erode the heart of higher education and individual liberty.