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Ayers Banned from Speaking, Again

By John K. Wilson

Bill Ayers is quickly surpassing Ward Churchill as the most banned speaker on college campuses. Administrators at Georgia Southern University have banned Ayers from speaking, claiming that they cannot afford $13,000 in security costs for his speech. The use of “security costs” to ban a controversial speaker is a serious threat to free speech. And Canada banned Ayers from crossing the border to speak at the University of Toronto.

Meanwhile, Republican legislators in Pennsylvania sent a letter to the president of Millersville University and chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education threatening to cut state funding unless Ayers is banned from speaking.

The letter calls the invitation “patently offensive” and “Inappropriate promotion” of Ayers: “It is simply not acceptable that a taxpayer owner and operated institution of higher learning would invite a man who engaged in domestic terrorism to its campus.” Of course, Ayers has never been convicted of any such charge.

Interestingly, the letter condemns Ayers not only for his radical past but for his “education philosophy which promotes student and parental political activism instead of achievement testing.” The legislators even attack Ayers’ role as an advocate of the “small schools” movement because it allegedly “includes building individual schools around specific political themes.” In fact, the letter from these legislators devotes more space to attacking Ayers’ educational philosophy than his role with the Weather Underground.

So the Republican legislators aren’t just interested in banning ex-radicals; they also want to ban campus speakers with liberal educational philosophies. In fact, they write that if Millersville University includes such “radical components” in its urban education program, “then we believe a full curriculum review is necessary.”

Although Ayers’ speech is privately funded by a foundation, the legislators conclude their letter with a particularly ominous and direct threat to cut state funding for Millersville University unless Ayers is banned: “we are interested to receive your input into how we can defend the Commonwealth’s significant investment of taxpayer monies toward the State System of Higher Education in light of this issue.”