Activist William Ayers to talk at Fresno State

William Ayers, a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a polarizing figure in the 2008 presidential election, will speak Friday at Fresno State as part of a film series.

University officials say his appearance is funded by a student group. Ayers was an activist in the 1960s who still attracts controversy.

Ayers’ topic is “Pay Attention and Be Astonished: Ethical Action and the Creation of the Public Square.” He will speak at 2 p.m. at the Alice Peters Auditorium in the Peters Business Building, then sign books at a reception following the talk.

The film “Central Station” will be screened from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the auditorium. Ayers will lead a post-screening discussion in McLane Hall Room 121.

The events are free and open to the public.

Ayers is an education professor who has written about issues such as social justice, democracy and education. Decades ago, he was part of the anti-war Weather Underground movement that claimed responsibility for bombings around the country in the early 1970s.

Ayers’ relationship with President Barack Obama — portrayed as close by critics and distant by supporters — was an issue in the 2008 campaign. Last week, he sued University of Wyoming after being banned from speaking on campus.

Fresno State Provost William Covino said the campus “traditionally is a place where a broad range of topics and ideas are explored by a variety of speakers.”

Campus officials said Ayers’ $1,500 honorarium will be paid by the student organization Cineculture, which is funded by a student activities fee. His $560.80 travel bill will be paid by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development with nonstate funds.