The University of Wyoming has been threatened with a lawsuit if the school doesn't allow 1960s radical-turned-academic Bill Ayers to speak on campus later this month.
The threat came after UW attorney Susan Weidel told student Meg Lanker that Ayers is banned from using a university venue to deliver a planned lecture on education theory on April 28. Lanker, who's organizing Ayers' visit, said Weidel didn't give a reason for the ban.
Late last month, the UW Social Justice Research Center canceled plans for Ayers to visit campus on April 5-6, citing security concerns. University administrators were bombarded with angry phone calls and e-mails, some of which threatened to cut off funding to the university or even violence if Ayers showed up.
In 1969, Ayers co-founded the Weather Underground, a Marxist-Leninist anti-war group that claimed responsibility for a series of bombings -- including explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol in the early 1970s that didn't kill anyone.
Lanker, angry about the cancellation, invited Ayers to campus to speak at UW's Classroom Building, which was reserved by the Secular Student Alliance, a UW-recognized student group.
But on Monday, Lanker was told by Wiedel in a phone call and e-mail that Ayers would not be welcome on campus.
"She was emphatic that it was not a possibility," Lanker said.
David Lane, an attorney for Lanker and Ayers, wrote Weidel in a letter Monday night that if Ayers isn't allowed to speak at UW, he will file suit in federal court. He gave UW a deadline of "high noon" today.
"You are prohibiting Mr. Ayers from speaking in a public forum commonly used for such purposes and you are preventing those interested members of the student body and community at large from hearing his message based solely upon the content of that message," Lane wrote in the letter. "As you undoubtedly know, the government is not permitted to censor free speech based upon its content."
UW spokeswoman Jessica Lowell said Tuesday that she wasn't sure if university administrators had seen the letter. Asked why UW decided to ban Ayers from speaking on campus, Lowell said, "No comment."
Weidel did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
Opponents of Ayers' visit are more concerned about his past than the topic of his lecture.
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