The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has decided to cancel a speech scheduled for Nov. 15th by former 1970’s radical and associate of Barack Obama after receiving complaints from the governor and other elected officials.
William Ayers had been invited to speak in February but the invitation only came to light recenly and sparked a fast and furious rebuke from Gov. Dave Heineman who said it was “an embarrassment” to the state and U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson who told the Omaha World-Herald that this wouldn’t promote the unity now needed in the nation. In addition to these calls for action were phone calls and e-mails from local citizens who were outraged at the university’s plans. But maybe the most influential statement came from the Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Foundation who has given millions of dollars to the school over the years when they said they would stop donating if the speech was given as scheduled.
University chancellor Harvey Perlman told students in an e-mail that Ayers was invited because he is recognized as a national scholar in the area of qualitative methodology which was to be the subject at College of Education and Human Sciences annual student research conference. Perlman also sought to cast doubts on whether or not Ayers was really still an unrepentent radical or the so-called education reformer that he has been called by the media.
All Perlman needed to do to find out where Ayers stands is consult education expert Sol Stern who recently wrote that as recently as 2006 Ayers was at an education forum in Caracas, Venezuela where he proclaimed his support for the reforms that were occurring in that country and finished by raising his fist and chanting: “Viva Presidente Chávez! Viva la Revolucion Bolivariana! Hasta la Victoria Siempre!” Chavez’ education reforms are modeled on Cuba and we all know what a great success that has been.
It is unusual in this day and age of political correctness to see a left wing speaker being denied an opportunity to speak on a university campus and for the chancellor to cite security as the driving issue is totally bogus. This is something academia does all the time to prevent conservative speakers from coming to campus. To see it being used on one of their own is shocking and lends more credence to the fact that it was really more about the money than security or even political pressure. Let’s be realistic here, exactly how violent are the students in Lincoln anyway? While some in academia see this as a stifling of free speech and having a “chilling effect” on academic freedom the university was well within its rights to protect the students from the type of speech Ayers was likely to give (does anyone think he could resist talking about the election?) and what he represents since he has never repudiated his actions in the ‘70’s.