Friday, October 17, 2008

Bill Ayers Banned at the University of Nebraska

Today, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln announced that Bill Ayers would be banned from giving a speech on campus next month because of "safety concerns."

University officials wouldn't explain what these "safety concerns" are, probably because they were really concerned only about the safety of their jobs and their budgets. According to the Omaha newspaper, "An Omaha charitable foundation had announced it was pulling all of its contributions to the university. Several other donors also have indicated to university fundraisers that there could be a financial cost if Ayers speaks."

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman earlier today called for the university to ban the speech: "This isn't even a close call. The university should immediately rescind the invitation." Heineman claimed on Fox News, "There are hundreds of other nationally known experts who could come to speak." That's not the issue. Any censor can argue that there are other "experts" who can speak. It's the suppression of free speech that matters.

Attorney General Jon Bruning declared: "I think it's good news for the university. I don't think there was any good way for the university to disassociate itself with his past." It's particularly sad when politicians like this help suppress academic freedom. It's not the job of the university to disassociate itself from a speaker.

Earlier this week, conservatives were in an uproar because officials at Central Michigan University were reluctant to provide the additional security demanded by David Horowitz for a speech, and wanted to charge the Campus Conservatives club $220 for the security. Conservatives cried censorship, and the administration finally made the right choice and paid for the security. However, it wasn't even remotely close to censorship.

Contrast that with what happened to Ayers: a total ban on him speaking because of "safety concerns." This is particularly suspicious because I've never heard of a speech being cancelled four weeks in advance due to "safety" issues. There are all sorts of ways to implement additional security without banning a speech.

It should even be possible, in the worst case scenario, to have Bill Ayers give a speech via satellite (or a DVD recording followed by a phone call to answer questions). If this is a total ban on Ayers imposed by the administration without allowing these options, then it seems clearly done for political reasons.

I'd like to know exactly what physical threats the university received because of Ayers' planned speech and what is being done to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

The University of Nebraska needs to reverse its attack on academic freedom, and reinvite Ayers to campus.

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