Yesterday, I told you about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s decision to feature Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers as a keynote speaker for its 100th anniversary celebration (link).
There’s a backlash brewing.
Reader Jon in Nebraska e-mails: “The University of Nebraska is already starting to lean towards the Ayers decision being a bad one. It is not a full out revolt, but I think enough people are against this, that the decision may well be overturned. We can only hope.”
Reader Mark, a student in the University of Nebraska system forwarded his e-mail to the chancellor:
As a student in the University of Nebraska system (UNO), I am writing to express my disapproval of the invitation extended to William Ayers to speak at the 100-year anniversary of the founding of UNL’s Teachers College reported in the Lincoln Journal Star.
While the article stresses that no student fees, state money or taxpayer funds will be used to pay for his honorarium, that is only a minor point. The appearance of William Ayers on the UNL campus so close to the election could appear as an endorsement of his political beliefs and those of Barack Obama. The University should refrain from any activity that could be construed as an endorsement of any political candidate, either in terms of payment or use of facilities. Unlike other universities whose students have expressed their disapproval of a speaker by throwing pies in their face or disrupting their speeches, I support the airing of all points of view at an institution of higher learning. This man’s point of view as an educator may be valid and even interesting, but rewarding his past admitted atrocities and recent expression of his desire to “do more”, goes beyond a simple exchange of ideas.
I also find it disheartening that the university could not find a keynote speaker for an event commemorating 100 years of teacher education who had not admittedly planted bombs and engaged in other terrorist activites. The commemoration is an event worthy of praise and I’m sure there are plenty of keynote speaker candidates who have not been photographed standing on the american flag.
I’m am disgusted, disappointed and regret my association with the University of Nebraska system.
— Mark Rabick
Reader Marsha in Nebraska also e-mails:
I am a just a normal middle-aged republican Nebraska mother(there are lot’s of us!). I am OUTRAGED over the universities invitation to have Bill Ayers as a Keynote speaker. I have started an email campaign among my friends to have them contact the University Chancellor, The Board of Regents and the Alumni Association to express their opinions on this terrible disgrace to our University and our Wonderful State. Nebraska is a true “red” state, with a football team (Go Big Red) to match….never did I think that association with the color red could stand for it’s Universities political affiliations.
The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken and some members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents on Thursday called the decision to invite William Ayers to NU’s Lincoln campus next month “poor judgment.”
Ayers, a founder of a radical group that bombed public buildings in protest of the Vietnam War, is scheduled to be a keynote speaker Nov. 15 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Education and Human Sciences’ student research conference. The conference is part of a two-day celebration honoring the college’s 100th anniversary.
Ayers, a distinguished education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was invited to UNL to share his expertise on topics like social justice and urban educational reform, said Marjorie Kostelnik, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences.
The Woods Fund of Chicago, for which Sen. Barack Obama and William Ayers once served as board members, is a sister organization to the Woods Charitable Fund in Lincoln.
The Woods Charitable Fund began in 1941 and provides grants to such areas as human services, art, culture and education. In 1994, it divided into two organizations — the original fund in Lincoln and a new one in Chicago — said Pam Baker, executive director of the Lincoln fund.
The two funds are informally related but have separate boards, assets and projects, Baker said. The Lincoln fund has not worked with either Obama or Ayers on any projects, she said.
But some NU leaders aren’t happy.
“While I believe that the open exchange of ideas and the principles of academic freedom are fundamental to a university, I also believe the decision to have Ayers on a program to celebrate the college’s Centennial represents remarkably poor judgment,” Milliken said in a statement.
“The University of Nebraska in no way condones Ayers’ past terrorist acts, which I consider reprehensible.”
It’s true that embracing academic freedom sometimes means welcoming controversial viewpoints, Regents Chairman Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons said.
“But at the same time, the authority we grant to the faculty to decide what to teach and who to invite comes with a responsibility to use that authority and that freedom with sound judgment,” Hassebrook said. “In this case, I think, that was violated.”
Said Regent Charles Wilson of Lincoln: “It was bad judgment to invite someone who has such a despicable history to participate in an event which is supposed to be a celebration. Anybody who thought this wouldn’t come up is probably naive.
“It’s just very unfortunate.”
Another reader e-mails: “As a native Nebraskan, and retired staff member of the UNL system, I am appalled at the decision of these people to invite William Ayers to speak, although “the University will not expend its own funds.” It’s amazing the chutzpah of these people. This is a free country and everyone has a right to their opinions, but since when do we give a public speaking opportunity to an avowed terrorist, who except for technicalities should be in jail, along with his lovely Bernadine.”
And from reader Mike, a rejoinder to Obama’s “I was only 8 years old” defense:
Obama can claim he was 8 when Ayers was a terrorist, but cannot use the defense when Ayers stood on the US flag in 2001. I find the picture speaks everything wrong with the left.