Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hot time in ol' Laramie when Dr. William Ayers comes to town April 5-6

I hope that lots of demonstrators protest Bill Ayers' visit to UW in April. I won't be one of them. I hope to be inside the hall listening to the speech. Bill Ayers has just as much right to speak at UW as Dick Cheney or Angela Davis or all the environmental rabble-rousers due for the upcoming Shepard Symposium. Heck, I wouldn't even raise a ruckus if Sarah Palin was invited to speak at UW, although the university's pockets may not be deep enough for her.

Bill Ayers received more that his fair share of attention during the 2008 election. He's about to get more, this time at the local level.

It is controversial enough for UW Provost Myron B. Allen to issue a release in advance of Dr. Ayers' visit:

The Social Justice Research Center, a unit of the University of Wyoming, has invited University of Illinois - Chicago Professor William Ayers to speak on UW's Laramie campus on April 5 and 6. Support for Professor Ayers's visit will come from the budget of the Center, which is funded from an endowed gift made to the university by an anonymous donor.

Professor Ayers is a controversial figure, in part because of his association, four decades ago, with the Weather Underground. Many will remember that his name arose during the 2008 presidential primaries, when opponents of then-candidate Barack Obama criticized his contacts with Professor Ayers.

Ayers earned a doctorate from Columbia University in 1987 and now holds the title of distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. His teaching focuses on issues related to social justice and educational reform. He has published and spoken widely. Furthermore, he currently serves as a vice president of the American Educational Research Association, a national professional society.

Professor Ayers is not the first controversial figure to speak at UW. He is not even the first UW speaker associated with past actions that some find deeply objectionable. With any luck, he won't be our last controversial speaker, on the left or on the right. An academic department's invitation to speak is not the same as an institutional endorsement: part of UW's mission is to provide a neutral forum in which to examine ideas. Of special interest are the ideas of people whose professional work has had impact on important areas of human endeavor.

The University of Wyoming has not distanced itself from controversy in the past and has been fortunate to host a range of speakers from a variety of backgrounds. It is clear to us that a university's role is to teach, not to indoctrinate. Some have insisted that UW cancel Professor Ayers's visit. We expect a higher level of discourse from our students and from the American public. And we are confident that the best way for our students to develop the judgment and independence of thought to evaluate ideas critically is to be exposed to a wide range of viewpoints.

Dr. Ayers public lecture will be held on Monday, April 5, 4 p.m., in the Education Auditorium, University of Wyoming. For more information, please contact the SJRC at

1 comment:

bigfrank said...

He has as much right to speak as I do not to give him my ear. Just afraid he might blow it off.