October 19, 2008

Oh, good grief!

Apart from a few blog entries, I've been staying out of the fray on Ayers. I didn't sign the online petition because at the time it went up, it didn't appear as if Ayers' academic freedom was being directly threatened. In this regard, I agree with Erin O'Connor, that public criticism is not the same as a threat to academic freedom. The arguments about Ayers' connection to Obama are specious and many border on the disgusting, but using libel and slander during an election is an old tactic. For a reasoned explanation of why someone who disagrees with the petition's wording nonetheless signed it, see Deborah Meier's explanation on Wednesday. My view is very close to Meier's, except I decided not to sign the petition.

What has changed is the reversal of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's invitation to have Ayers speak on campus after the election. As John Wilson notes, the pretense of "safety concerns" is a naked excuse to bar Ayers because he is controversial or embarrassing. After the election, regardless of the outcome, Ayers will be an afterthought on the national scene. Would UNL bar any of the major-party candidates for president or vice president because of the costs of providing security or updating infrastructure? I didn't see any of the hosts for this year's presidential debates shy away from those costs. UNL's decision is a violation of academic freedom principles.

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Posted in Academic freedom on October 19, 2008 1:16 PM |