STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State's president should cancel plans to have a co-founder of the violent anti-war group the Weather Underground speak on campus next week, the state Senate's presiding officer said Friday.
President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, a Jefferson County Republican, told university president Eric Barron in a letter he wants to know how much it is costing the university to host Bill Ayers next week.
"The decision to allow Mr. Ayers to address your students and faculty in light of his violent past is difficult for me to reconcile," Scarnati wrote.
A university spokeswoman said the appearances were organized by student leaders with student activity fees and would not use state funds.
"They are free to sponsor programs and speakers, however controversial, without censorship by the university," said Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers. "Of course, the presence of any speaker cannot be taken as an endorsement by the university of his/her views."
She said Barron was traveling and had not seen Scarnati's letter.
The Weather Underground was an organization that opposed the war in Vietnam. It claimed responsibility for several bombings, including nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.
Ayers was a fugitive for years but turned himself in in 1980. Charges were later dropped over issues related to the government's methods of investigating him.
Ayers is scheduled to be a panelist at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law on March 19, an event sponsored by the Law and Education Alliance.
Powers said the other event, at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on March 20, is being put on by the Curriculum and Instruction Graduate Student Association. That appearance, she said, will include a workshop on teaching toward democracy and involve a presentation on the political correctness of diversity.
Efforts to contact Ayers for comment by email, telephone and social media were unsuccessful.