Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weather Underground Terrorist Bill Ayers Denied Emeritus Status by the University of Illinois Board

"There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so."---Christopher Kennedy in The Chicago Sun-Times (9-24-10)

In 1973, the Chicago Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers co-authored a communist tract titled Prairie Fire. The title is an allusion to Mao's saying that "a single spark can ignite a prairie fire." The book is dedicated to Sirhan Sirhan, who murdered Senator Bobby Kennedy on June 5, 1968 after he gave a campaign speech for President in Los Angeles.

Bobby Kennedy graduated from the University of Virginia Law School and served as Attorney General in John F. Kennedy's administration. During his tenure as Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy went after organized crime and helped craft the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This week, Prairie Fire's dedication came back to haunt the communist terrorist Bill Ayers. The Chicago Sun-Times (9-24-10) reports:

When retiring University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Bill Ayers co-wrote a book in 1973, it was dedicated in part to Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy's assassin.

That came back to haunt Ayers on Thursday when the U. of I. board, now chaired by Kennedy's son, considered his request for emeritus status. It was denied in a unanimous vote.

Before the vote, an emotional Chris Kennedy spoke out against granting the status to Ayers.

"I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father," he said.

"There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so."

Later, Kennedy told the Chicago Sun-Times he and the board have not seen any signs of remorse from Ayers in the nearly 40 years since the dedication.

"There's no evidence in any of his interviews or conversations that he regrets any of those actions -- that's a better question for him," he told the Sun-Times.

Kennedy, who was 4 when his father was killed in 1968, said the board's decision did not hinge on his own personal feelings.

"The decision was grounded in great university governance," he told the newspaper. "Obviously, there was a personal angle for me, but Ayers' actions were inconsistent with open dialogue and debate that should define any great university."

Ayers should not expect any change in that position.

"He asked for this privilege," Kennedy said. "He's not going to get it from me or that board."

Kennedy runs the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

In his remarks to the board Thursday, Kennedy noted that emeritus status is a privilege and not automatic, and that Ayers had initiated the request.

"Our discussion of this topic therefore does not represent an intervention into the scholarship of the university, nor is it a threat to academic freedom."

Emeritus status at the U. of I. is purely honorific and does not include perks granted by some other schools, such as office space, insurance benefits and free parking.

University spokesman Tom Hardy said no one could recall the last time a request for emeritus status had been denied.

"It's highly unusual," he said.

Before he became a professor of education at UIC, Ayers was a co-founder of the radical anti-Vietnam War group the Weather Underground. The group participated in several bombings, and Ayers spent time on the run from the FBI.

Federal charges against Ayers were dropped, and he joined the UIC faculty in 1987.

The dedication to Sirhan Sirhan appeared in the book Prairie Fire. Sirhan was one of more than 150 "political prisoners" to whom the book was dedicated.

Ayers went on to contribute to Chicago's school reform program and was one of three co-authors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant proposal that won $49.2 million to study public school reform.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Ayers' connections to Barack Obama became a lightning rod. Ayers has denied any close association with Obama.

Contacted by a reporter, Ayers declined to comment about the board's action, but when he announced his retirement in August, his former boss, Vicki Chou, dean of UIC's College of Education, told the Sun-Times, "He's done a spectacular job as a teacher here."

Kennedy told the board that he "is guided by my conscience and one which has been formed by a series of experiences, many of which have been shared with the people of our country and mark each of us in a profound way.

"My own history is not a secret. My life experiences inform my decision-making as a trustee of the university."

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