Editorial: Cancellation Of Ayers' U. Nebraska Appearance An Embarrassment

This story was written by Editorial Board, Daily Nebraskan


The decision to cancel the Nov. 15 Bill Ayers speech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln casts doubt on the commitment that several UNL administrators, NU Foundation donors and certain Nebraska state officials have to furthering higher education outside of preferred state and campus ideologies, securing free speech and allowing for an open exchange of ideas.

While the reasons for the decision have been debated and are controversial -- including an e-mail from Chancellor Harvey Perlman defending the university's decision on the grounds of safety threats involved -- the decision seems to have been motivated, at least in part, by money, position and political ideology.

There were safety threats, but the real threats came from donors, MVP citizens and -- oh, the status quo.

The decision leaves many students and faculty appropriately disappointed with and disillusioned by the unmistakable politicking involved in the situation.

In a pompous, politically-motivated and self-entitled move, Gov. Dave Heineman made a public statement claiming that inviting Ayers to speak at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was an embarrassment -- both to the school and to the state.

With these words, our so-called state leader silenced the collective student and administrative voice of UNL by declaring their choice to bring Ayers wrong. Furthermore, he belittled the intent of this institution of higher education by sending out the message that political stance and reputation matter more than learning potential. Gov. Heineman, your ignorance and disdain for free speech embarrass us.

UNL's own chancellor, president, Board of Regents and NU Foundation members should be taken to task for their decision to cancel Ayers' speech as well.

For Ayers -- a man with a violent, tumultuous history -- to come speak at UNL would be for the administration to allow a free exchange of and expression of ideas that run contrary to standard Nebraska ideology ... or would it?

Brought here to discuss methodology (as Chancellor Perlman pointed out), Ayers' speech would not have focused on his colorful history, involvement in "terrorism" or anything non-academically fascinating.

Let's not forget about NU Foundation donors. Where there is scandal and abuse of power, there tends to be money. Donors have publicly said that if Ayers were to come to UNL, they would have pulled donations. Thank you, donors --who are supposed to support students' pursuit of knowledge --for revoking our potential to learn in the selfish name of your own political leanings.

If Ayers had come to UNL, students would have had the opportunity to learn from an expert in the field of methodology. They would have been exposed to new ideas, learned new theories and background and would have grown as students.

Unfortunately, none of this matters to those involved in the decision. The real threat in this decision has been to the commitment to education at this institution. Do better next time. As students, we deserve it.
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