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William Ayers to speak at Brandeis Thursday night

Posted by Andrew Ryan, Globe Metro Desk  April 30, 2009 12:29 PM

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By Jenna Nierstedt, Globe Correspondent

Former radical William Ayers will finally get a chance tonight to be heard on a Massachusetts college campus.

The onetime member of the 1960s militant antiwar organization the Weather Underground will speak at 9 p.m. at Brandeis University in Waltham. It will come more than two months after Boston College canceled a scheduled appearance by Ayers.

"This is about freedom of educational opportunity," Brandeis spokesman Dennis Nealon told the Globe last week. "The university has made it clear that it is not going to bar the talk despite the controversial nature of the speaker."

Ayers will speak about "lessons learned from the antiwar movement," said Lev Hirschhorn, a sophomore and a campaign coordinator for Democracy for America, one of two student organizations that invited him. "He might have some interesting insights about the successes and the failures of the movement."

Now an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Ayers was blocked from speaking at Boston College March 30 by school administrators who cited pressure from Brighton residents and Boston police officers. Boston police Sergeant Walter Schroeder was killed during a 1970 bank robbery in Brighton Center by radicals who some law enforcement officials believed were linked to the Weather Underground. Ayers was in Chicago during his time in the movement.

Brandeis has its own links to the 1970 shooting. One of Schroeder's daughters is a police sergeant in Waltham. Two of those involved in the robbery, Katherine Ann Power and Susan Saxe, were Brandeis students. One of their accomplices shot Schroeder in the back.

The event will be held at the Shapiro Campus Center and is open to members of the Brandeis community.

The sponsoring student groups held meetings beforehand to allow members of the university community to learn more about Ayers and to provide an opportunity to voice support or opposition to his appearance.

"Bill Ayers is a fairly controversial person undoubtedly, and we think it's of value if he's coming to speak, for the community to be able to speak about how they feel about him and the things he will talk about," said Hirschhorn.

The other sponsor is Students for a Democratic Society. The organizations said the idea for the invitation goes back to the presidential election when the campaign of Republican nominee John McCain accused Barack Obama of having ties to the former radical.

Liza Behrendt, a member of Democracy for America, said she brought up the idea of a lecture by Ayers after the election issue made her reconsider the meaning of the word "activist."

"College activists don't always weigh the process versus the end goal," said Behrendt, a sophomore studying politics. "This will make us consider the difference between a goal and a method, how to keep your actions in line with your values. Bill Ayers won't provide answers necessarily, but he will spark a conversation and be a valuable and puzzling figure to ponder."

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24 comments so far...
  1. This is a disgrace. Whoever agreed to enrich this unrepentant domestic terrorist should be vilified. Instead, they'll be celebrated by the Leftist Moonbats who now control academia. No doubt Ayers will be wildly cheered by the indoctinated students. Only Conservatives are silenced on college campuses. I wonder how the daughter of the officer killed by his group who is now on the Waltham police feels.

    Remember what Ayers said after Clinton pardoned him "Guilty as hell, free as a bird—it’s a great country."

    How sad for our once great country and our children.

    Posted by Jan April 30, 09 01:51 PM
  1. Barack H. Obama announced his candidacy for Senate in Ayers living room. They also served as "community organizers" in Chicago together on some type of school improvement committee. If those aren't ties, I don't know what are. I don't consider someone who incites crime (especially one where someone ends up shot) an activist. He is entitled to his freedom to speak, though I don't know why anyone would want to hear what he has to say.

    Posted by jod April 30, 09 02:07 PM
  1. Former radical?


    What a disgrace.

    Posted by realist April 30, 09 02:14 PM
  1. Come on people. I don't like what he did 35-40 years ago, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have something worth listening to. Can every one of you stand up and honestly say that you still stand behind everything you did 40 years ago?

    In addition, this kind of guilt by association sounds like something from Stalin's USSR, not 21st century America.

    Posted by getalife April 30, 09 02:39 PM
  1. Except his bombs killed people and he does not regret it...Wont apologize for it and wishes he could do more........

    Posted by mike April 30, 09 02:52 PM
  1. Former Radical? I am certain the entire Boston Globe editorial staff will be at Brandeis leading the ovation.

    Posted by hugo April 30, 09 02:54 PM
  1. I've heard plenty of opposition to this lecture, and it's certainly understandable that people are questioning this speaker. However, let's just take a step back.
    He is now a professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, holding the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar. He was connected with a terrible group many years ago, but he is now a respected educator and his experiences, mistakes and realizations will make for an incredible learning opportunity. The students at this PRIVATE university are not required to attend and if THEY choose to protest, what great dialogue that will create.

    It's really unfortunate that BU caved in to one-sided community pressure and deprived interested students the opportunity to have a learning experience in an acedemic setting. A bold move by Brandeis which shows their committment to education regardless of how polarizing this speaker is.

    Posted by educationproponent April 30, 09 03:00 PM
  1. Waas George Bush busy?

    Posted by alring April 30, 09 03:14 PM
  1. You rightwing nuts jobs need to get a life. You're so boring. And stupid. Boring and stupid. A pitiful combination to possess. George Bush’s grandfather did business with Nazi Germany—where is the outrage against that little factoid of history? Oh, I forgot, you guys don’t read and history is too many shades of gray for your malfunctioning brains to decipher. You prefer the black-and-white cowboy version of history. Why don’t guys start your own university system if you think the current one is overrun with so-called “liberals?” It would be a lot of hard work, which is something most rightwing nut jobs can’t seem to handle, so I probably just answered my own question. And saying Obama is “associated” with Ayers just because they served on a public committee (started by a conservative, by the way), is like saying you’re gay because you’re brother is gay…because you both grew up in the same house, therefore, you must be gay too. That’s right; you’re gay.

    Posted by HesterPrynne April 30, 09 03:24 PM
  1. Get your facts straight. Katherine Ann Power nor her fellow accomplices were members of the Weathermen. She killed the police man not the Weathermen and Bill Ayres. Just because one radical group was against the Vietnam War does not make them all guilty of murder.

    Posted by jagg April 30, 09 03:28 PM
  1. If you're going to quote Ayers, then get it right. He said "Guilty as hell, free as a bird—it’s a great country" when interviewed by David Horowitz in 1981.

    Posted by Case April 30, 09 03:38 PM
  1. Hey getalife, it's been 35 or 40 years, I guess that the adult children of Officer Walter Schroeder out to just "get over it"

    Posted by Matthew April 30, 09 03:46 PM
  1. The people who are vilifying Ayers and assuming that the Brighton bank robbers were "weathermen" apparently don't know that the government had shot students to quell demonstrations (at Kent State), that hundreds of thousands of Americans were openly protesting the ongoing war in Viet Nam, and that major universities had been shut down by a student strike for weeks, and that a vast upswell of protest had been going on for some time. The strike, demonstrations, and organizing activity, which was similar in some respects to the heady, dangerous and manic atmosphere described by witnesses to the Mexican or the Soviet revolutions (and no doubt the earlier American revolution), was not orchestrated by or connected with the self-absorbed group of middle class radicals who formed the weather underground. No doubt the weather underground itself was not very much like the description of their beliefs and activities promulgated by the FBI. So it is just plain ignorant to accept that image of weathermen, and also use it to denigrate the thousands of legitimate protesters who were following their consciences in a time of great national shame. Most protesters abhorred violence, and while some of the vocal ones may have employed violent speech, it was not different in kind from the threats and invective they experienced from the government, which had its share of rascists and demagogues still plying their Cold War, power-consolidating hatemongering diatribes. While I greatly sympathize with the family and the colleagues of Officer Schroeder, blind hatred is never an appropriate emotion, and I am frankly surprised to find anyone now, almost 40 years later spouting such characterizations and assuming there is one devil and anyone studying that time in history is his agent.

    Posted by mike falkoff April 30, 09 03:46 PM
  1. They think the kids might actually learn something from him? Will they invite Rev. Wright next? He has a lot of tolerance toward Jews.
    If they're so open minded then maybe they could invite Jim Gilchrist, the leader of the Minute Men. He would enlighten them as to what's really happening on the southern border.
    The sad thing is that these kids are the future of America. Well, what will be left of it. And they would rather invite a former home grown terrorist than a truly patriotic American. Most of this has to do with his relationship with Barak Obama. You know, the one Barak denied. Although, Barak denied knowing anything about most of his radical friends during his campaign.

    Posted by David April 30, 09 04:21 PM
  1. Doesn't take much to get the wingnut whiners revved up, does it? If you only want to hear opinions that agree with your own, then college campuses are not the place for you. Then again, neither is Massachusetts. You would probably be better off in Idaho or Mississippi. Plenty of whiners there for company and noone will challenge your loony false beliefs.

    Posted by Jamie April 30, 09 04:23 PM
  1. A murderer gets to belly-ache about how American policies protect American people against foreign and domestic terrorists. Be prepared for verbal diarhea.

    Posted by Archimedes April 30, 09 04:30 PM
  1. It is always hilarious to see the right-wing attack Ayers so vigorously, because many of these are the same folks who believe the second amendment grants the citizenry the right of rebellion against a recalcitrant or unresponsive government.

    And what Ayers did was to take up arms against a recalcitrant and unresponsive government.

    Posted by Harrybosch April 30, 09 04:31 PM
  1. I am an alumni of Brandeis University and have no problems with Ayers speaking there. If he can teak at U. of Illinois, surely he can speak at another university?

    However, during my studies at Brandeis I did have a major issue with the university, particularly with the politics department. The university, whose motto is "truth, even onto its innermost parts" has long ago abandoned its mission. Real discussion of historical and political events is stiffened and suffocated by a thick veil of political correctness. No opinions are ever deemed wrong. When students misinterpret history, professors attribute their remarks to "differences of opinions". The pursuit of truth requires telling people that their opinions may be either wrong or worthless. Far from teaching students how to seek out truth, many professors simply expected them to parrot back their interpretations of truth. I quit a class early on (development - politics department) when I realized within the first two lessons that any opinion that did not blame all the problems of the third-world on first-world colonization and corporate oppression would not be tolerated. Fortunately, the science, economics and a few other faculties were truly outstanding.

    Posted by Natasha April 30, 09 04:37 PM
  1. It doesn't say much for Brandeis, if Bill Ayers is the best speaker the university can invite to stimulate thinking on the campus.

    Posted by Linda April 30, 09 05:14 PM
  1. Mr Ayers said that political assasination was a legitimate way to bring about political change. Will someone please ask him if the JFK and Bobby Kennedy assasinations were a legitimate way to bring about change.

    Posted by Kevin April 30, 09 05:18 PM
  1. Nixon was responsible for more bombing deaths that this man could ever dream of and lied to us just the same, and used our money to do it. Lets put this in proper perspective and let the man gloat, his methods were evil but he just may have saved many young mans lives.

    Posted by joemac22 April 30, 09 06:47 PM
  1. I suppose all you good Christian folk won't be happy until Ayres is waterboarded, bound in "stress positions" and gang-raped by the CIA and all of our morally-sound torturers, right? Ya know, I'd be okay with you guys having that position, too, if you didn't say any other time that God desires love, peace, and forgiveness.

    Posted by TJ May 1, 09 10:48 AM
  1. The Weather Underground killed three police officers and lent logistic support to other radicals who killed nine other cops.

    In Ayers' biography, he refused to disclose which nail-bombs he had built, saying "some details can not be told."

    In fact, the SF police are now interviewing an FBI informant who claims Ayers built the bomb that killed one of their cops. And his fingerprints were found in the apartment in which the Fort Dix bombs -- destined to kill hundreds at a dance -- were built.

    When released from custody due to a technicality, he stated to reporters, "Guilty as hell, free as a bird."

    Now, all that said, why would Brandeis offer a forum to a man who very well could have been serving a life sentence in Leavenworth?

    If you know or have a family member who is a cop, consider Brandeis offering a forum to this despicable scum.

    Posted by Corinne May 1, 09 09:01 PM
  1. William Ayers and the member of Students for a Democratic Society stopped engaging in electoral politics in 1968--they were absent from the 1968 Democratic Convention. Very self-indulgent group people. During the peak of anti-war protest, their antiwar activities did not include going door-to-door to engage the electorate; or active persuasion on street corners. Not necessarily good role models of anti-war agitation for current students. However, good vehicles for publicity.


    Posted by Dusty Don May 2, 09 05:47 AM