UC Berkeley students attend as President Trump signs executive order to protect free speech on college campuses

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- UC Berkeley received more than $700 million for research in the 2017-2018 school year, more than $400 million was provided by the federal government. President Donald Trump's newly signed executive could remove federal funding for research from universities if they do not support and protect freedom of speech on campus.

"Personally I think that the penalties are a little too demanding," Logan Shackleton, a student at UC Berkeley, said.

Shackleton's opinion was shared by many students ABC7 News spoke with at UC Berkeley on Thursday. However, students inside the White House at that same time couldn't have disagreed more.

RELATED: Video shows young conservative activists being assaulted on U.C. Berkeley Campus

"It was a really awesome experience and I'm super grateful that I was able to go," Berkeley College Republicans President Matt Ronnau said.

Trump invited Ronnau, along with three others from Berkeley (one current student and two former), to join in on the signing of his executive order aimed at protecting free speech on college campuses.

"You refused to be silenced by powerful forces," the president said.

Trump's invitation to Ronnau and the other students followed an explosive incident at UC Berkeley last month.

RELATED: Suspect in assault caught on video on UC Berkeley campus arrested

A conservative activist was punched in the face while recruiting students to a grassroots conservative organization.

It sounded like Trump was referencing the event during his speech.

"People being punched hard in the face, but he didn't go down," the president said. "I said you have a better chin than Muhammad Ali."

"Really I think this got the president's attention in February of 2017 when we tried to host Milo Viannopoulos," Ronnau said.

The protests at UC Berkeley surrounding Milo Viannopoulos made national headlines.

In reference to the executive order, UC Berkeley spokesperson released the following statement.

"We have no concerns about any scrutiny of our support for free speech and diversity of perspective."
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