Nebraska Cancels William Ayers Event

Chancellor insists decision was made over "substantial security threat."


Late last week, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln canceled a November speech that would have featured William Ayers, the Journal Star reports. According to Chancellor Harvey Perlman, the decision was made after a "threat assessment team" decided Ayers's speech would present a "substantial security threat."

Ayers, a University of Illinois-Chicago education professor, was selected in February by a faculty committee as an education conference keynote speaker—well before the Weather Underground founder re-emerged as a national story in recent weeks. But when news of his appearance hit the mainstream media Thursday, the university was inundated with angry phone calls and E-mails.

It was then that the university ordered its threat assessment, which Perlman stresses is the sole reason Ayers's invitation was revoked. "I want to emphasize one point as strongly as I can," he wrote in an E-mail to the university Monday. "I do not think the selection of Ayers to come to Lincoln to address a student research conference on research methodology was in any way inappropriate."

Meanwhile, critics of the decision worry that the move is a threat to academic freedom. "It's a major infringement on academic freedom, unless it turns out that the university had clear evidence of threats to life," said one Nebraska professor. "If it's not as serious as that, I think they used that as an excuse to make a political judgment."