by Yancy Bonner
July 08, 2010
Money well spent?
Early this spring, University of Wyoming trustees and wealthy donors
along with alumni, parents and others pressured UW president Tom
Buchanan to deny controversial figure William Ayers' right to speak
at the school.
The former 1960s radical and founder of the anti-Vietnam War group
The Weather Underground was slated to speak about education reform on
campus in April, but a torrent of angry e-mails and phone calls and
donors' threats to withhold money led the privately-endowed UW Social
Justice Research Center to rescind the invitation.
When a student re-extended the invitation, university officials
barred Ayers from speaking on campus. The brief legal battle that
ensued when that student, Meghan Lanker, and Ayers sued UW in U.S.
District Court subsequently cost the school $86,000 in settlement
money, legal fees and other expenses.
The choice by UW officials to deny free speech on campus was a poor
one from the get-go, and the $86,000 price tag makes it even more
difficult for many university supporters to swallow.
What amounted to a "heckler's veto" of free speech, according to
Wyoming Chief U.S. District Judge William Downes when he ruled on the
case in April, came with a hefty price tag.
Taxpayers and other UW supporters and donors shouldn't have to pay
the legal tab for a few who insisted UW officials quell free speech.
It's time for the hecklers to stand behind what they believe in to
put their money where their mouths are and foot the bill.