LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – A memo providing details of angry communications from people furious about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s invitation to former radical William Ayers says the threats of violence and protests included veiled threats to kill him.
Psychology associate professor Mario Scalora, who is on the university threat assessment team, said in the memo released Wednesday that there would be “hell to pay” if Ayers’ scheduled appearance at a Nov. 15 education conference weren’t canceled.
University officials rescinded the invitation to Ayers on Friday, citing security concerns in the face of an outcry from university regents, the governor and Nebraskans from around the state.
“I hate violence, but I think that any directed at Ayers would be well deserved,” one blogger said, adding: “I wonder what kind of flag (Ayers) wants on his coffin.”
Ayers, an education professor in Illinois, was a founder of the Weather Underground, a group that claimed responsibility for bombing several government buildings, and has become a lightning rod in the U.S. presidential campaign.
The university said it received more than 1,000 e-mails and phone calls about the Ayers invitation.
Said Scalora in his memo: “We can be assured that we will have groups and frustrated individuals who will attempt to disrupt the event and attempt to be provocative toward Ayers and others in attendance.”
Memo versions went to university Police Chief Owen Yardley and Chancellor Harvey Perlman on Oct. 16. Perlman said he decided that night to cancel the Ayers invitation but waited to announce that until the university reached Ayers, who was in Taiwan.
At a news conference Monday, Perlman said that decision was based solely on the security concerns and that no one strong-armed him into it. If higher officials had ordered him to do so, he said, he would have quit.
Ayers’ speech at UNL’s Teachers College would not have been open to the public, but Scalora’s memo suggested that it be moved elsewhere and that beefed-up university security should huddle with local and state law enforcement.
“In a short time, you can’t pull together a large number of security resources,” Scalora said Wednesday.
Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s camp has accused Democratic nominee Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” citing, among other things, a 1995 meet-the-candidate coffee that Ayers hosted at his home for Obama when the younger man launched his political career by running for state Senate. The two also served together on a Chicago school reform group and a charity board.
The subject rose anew last week during the final presidential debate when McCain said Obama needs to explain the full extent of his relationship with Ayers, whom he called “an old, washed-up terrorist.”
By Obama’s and other accounts, the two men were not close, and Obama has repeatedly denounced Ayers’ radical activities.
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