July 16, 2010
CHEYENNE Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Thursday blasted the University
of Wyoming Board of Trustees for scheduling, then ultimately
canceling, a private meeting to discuss a dropped lawsuit by 1960s
radical Bill Ayers.
Freudenthal also said he opposes any attempt by UW to create
regulations about who's allowed to speak on UW's campus, an idea that
some trustees have talked about informally.
In April, Ayers and UW student Meg Lanker sued the school after being
told that Ayers, a co-founder of the domestic terrorist group the
Weather Underground, wouldn't be allowed to speak on campus. A
federal judge subsequently granted a preliminary injunction that
forced UW to permit Ayers to deliver a lecture on education theory at
the UniWyo Dome on April 28.
Ayers and Lanker dropped their lawsuit against UW in mid-May after
the university agreed to pay $50,000 in lawyer fees.
Board members had planned to discuss the conclusion of the lawsuit in
executive session today during a board retreat in Hulett. But earlier
this week, board members removed that meeting from the retreat agenda
after questions were raised about whether meeting in private violates
Wyoming's open-meetings law.
"I appointed them, but I have to tell you, I think they mishandled
the whole thing," Freudenthal, an ex officio member of the board of
trustees, told reporters during a State Capitol media conference.
Freudenthal said that attempting to meet in private unnecessarily
revived high drama surrounding Ayers' visit.
"Well, you know that when they're together over coffee or something,
they're going to talk about it," he said. "So why don't they just
talk about it? You know? There aren't any really big secrets in this."
UW spokeswoman Jessica Lowell said Thursday that the university had
no comment on the issue.
In the wake of Ayers' visit, which generated a firestorm of angry
letters and e-mails often targeted at UW trustees some board
members have informally raised the issue of creating a policy for
speakers who come to UW. Board members have stressed that any action
they might take on the issue wouldn't come before the board's next
scheduled public meeting, Sept. 16-18 in Laramie.
Freudenthal said that while he had no problem with new policies to
give more of a heads-up to campus officials when a controversial
speaker is booked to speak at UW, he opposes creating a system to
approve or reject speakers.
"One of the reasons we have universities is they have ideas and stuff
that, frankly, I don't agree with," Freudenthal said. "But it doesn't
mean they shouldn't have those ideas.
"I mean, Copernicus wasn't exactly well-received in his day," he
said, referring to the medieval scholar chastised for his assertion
that the Earth revolved around the Sun. "And that turned out that he
was probably right."
Contact Jeremy Pelzer at email@example.com or 307-632-1244.