NPR logo U of Wyoming Disinvites Controversial William Ayers


U of Wyoming Disinvites Controversial William Ayers

The University of Wyoming has cancelled a planned visit by William Ayers, the education professor who became a flashpoint during the 2008 presidential campaign because of his radical past and connection to then-Sen. Barack Obama.

But even though the cancellation came after much public clamor opposing the visit, the university wants everyone to know it didn't buckle to all those negative phone calls and e-mails.

An excerpt from the university's statement on the matter. The statement quotes the university's president Tom Buchanan:

"Observers in and outside of the university would be incorrect to conclude that UW simply caved in to external pressure. Rather, I commended the director of the center for a willingness to be sensitive to the outpouring of criticism, evaluate the arguments, and reconsider the invitation.

"The University of Wyoming is one of the few institutions remaining in today's environment that garners the confidence of the public. The visit by Professor Ayers would have adversely impacted that reputation.

Ayers, as many will recall, was the one-time co-founder of the radical 1960s organization, the Weather Underground, which believed in violent attacks against the establishment and was responsible for several bombings.

Ayers became a factor in the 2008 election because Obama had associated with him because they both served on a board together and lived in the same Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago.

Obama distanced himself from Ayers during that campaign which was especially necessary for the presidential candidate's fortunes since Ayers never really renounced his revolutionary past.

Back to Wyoming. Buchanan, the school's president, makes clear that he understands that many critics concerned about academic freedom and the role of the modern university to be fora for ideas, some of them controversial, will accuse his school of failing in that regard.

He tries to deal with that head on in this way:

He continued, "Academic freedom is a core principle of any institution of higher education. But with that freedom comes an obligation to exercise free thought and free speech in concert with mutual respect and acknowledgment of broader resource and security impacts on the campus. The exercise of freedom requires a commensurate dose of responsibility.