Ayers visit not a travesty, but an opportunity
By Chelsea Fiddyment
Ever since the initial mention the DI made back in November about
Bill Ayers coming to visit, the campus and the Champaign-Urbana
community - and the Chicago Tribune, and a decent-sized chunk of the
Internet - have been debating it.
People can protest all they like, of course. None of it kept Mr.
Ayers from making his scheduled visit this week.
And why should it? In order for Unit One (Allen Hall's
living-learning community) to offer in-hall classes and events, Allen
residents pay an extra yearly fee of $310. They are also encouraged
to make suggestions for prospective guests-in-residence, and at the
end of every academic year, residents vote on the guests they would
like to host. Succinctly put, Allen residents paid for the experience
of the guest-in-residence program and chose to invite Bill Ayers. No
other students funded his visit, but all were certainly invited to
attend, as was the general public.
On its list of guests-in-residence, each year Unit One prints the
same declaration of purpose: "The guests of this program live in
Allen Hall and, in cooperation with students and staff, attempt to
elicit an understanding for the necessity of creative thinking in society."
This statement creates the best frame for controversial events like
Bill Ayers' brief residency. We imagine that a college education, or
rather a bachelor's degree, is a necessity in our society. What we
tend to forget is that a college education by its very nature
requires elements of what we now specifically refer to as a "liberal
arts education" - not politically liberal experiences, but
experiential learning that influences our intellects, our ideas and
our opinions in relation to the world we will step into following graduation.
With this in mind, of course Bill Ayers should come to speak on our
campus. We would do a tremendous disservice to ourselves and the
ongoing education of the community by turning him or controversial
figures like him away. By freshman year of college, everyone should
know that people exist who have different or contrasting beliefs than
their own. And by hosting people like Mr. Ayers, students will
hopefully leave this institution with the powerful and invaluable
ability to explore every opinion in addition to their own.
Before Ayers' event on Tuesday night, a few students stood outside
protesting his presence. More importantly, a few students came into
the event, listened to Ayers' lecture, and asked questions of him,
despite their obvious opposition to what they believe he stands for.
Ayers did not trivialize their statements - he answered them fully and well.
Mr. Ayers stressed in response that a person's attendance at an event
that reflects a contrasting perspective from her own doesn't mean she
enables or supports that viewpoint. I agree. It simply creates
opportunities for personal and societal growth. How can anyone be
sure their opinions reflect their best possible understanding of
their world if they never change?
If they even know who he is, many students' feelings toward Bill
Ayers reflect the influence of people in their lives who were around
during the Vietnam War era.
In the same way that children's political ideas primarily mirror
those of their parents until after high school, it's easy to have an
opinion handed down to us about a time period and the actions of
people in it when we were not even alive.
It is always easy to have opinions about the past during the present.
It's much harder to stay constantly engaged with the present (in
which Mr. Ayers is a professor and proponent of educational reform),
when our opinions have the potential to shape our world.
So tonight, attend Ayers' lecture. Give yourself a chance to hold
your opinions up to the light, examine them, and compare them with
Bill Ayers' visit isn't about terrorism. It's an invitation to think.
That is what a college education is all about.
Chelsea is a senior in English and creative writing and really needs
to get a super-efficient robot body.
Protest against Bill Ayers draws opposition
By Patrick Wade
A pre-planned protest of a discussion led by visiting UIC professor
Bill Ayers didn't produce much of a turnout Wednesday evening.
Instead, students gathering to protest the protest seemed to prevail.
But Jacob Hollars, sophmore in LAS, was among a few students who
showed up to challenge Bill Ayers.
"We're trying to make it known that there's opposition," he said.
"We're not trying to shoot him down. It's his right to talk. His
ideas need to be challenged, especially as a 60s and 70s weatherman."
Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, a radical political
organization during the 1970s, and his connection with President
Barack Obama was controversial during the 2008 election.
Ayers is staying in Allen Hall this week as part of its
Area man arrested at Ayers lecture
By Sarah Small
Mark Thompson, of the Champaign-Urbana area, was arrested at the Bill
Ayers lecture Thursday night at Allen Hall.
Ayers was participating in the guest-in-residence program at the
residence hall and lectured every night this week. Robin Kaler,
University spokeswoman, said Thompson had attended each lecture
during the week and had grown increasingly disruptive as
the week progressed.
Thursday night he rushed the stage on which Ayers was lecturing with
two books, the Bible and Atlas Shrugged. Ayers felt threatened by the
man's advances and police arrested him.
The arrest had nothing to do with what Thompson was saying, Kaler
said. He was arrested for resisting or obstructing a peace officer
and interference with a public institution of higher education.
Ayers tickets sell out at Millersville University
School gears up for visit
Published: Mar 14, 2009
By DAVE PIDGEON, Staff Writer
Members of the public will not be able to attend Bill Ayers'
controversial presentation at Millersville University next week.
By 9 a.m. Friday, students and faculty had nabbed all 300 tickets for
the event in the Lehr Room of Gordinier Hall, where the noted urban
education expert with a violent past is scheduled to speak on Thursday.
That means the only way members of the public can watch is on campus
in a room where Ayers' speech will be shown on closed-circuit television.
Janet Kacskos, spokeswoman for Millersville University, said Friday
that 300 free tickets will be made available to the general public
for access to that room, which is in the Student Memorial Center.
"I guess it's all the media attention," Kacskos said when asked why
300 students and faculty would snatch up the tickets so quickly. The
tickets were made available starting Thursday.
Tickets to the general public will be made available beginning at 8
a.m. Monday in the Student Memorial Center, 1 S. George St., Millersville.
Ayers is scheduled to talk at 7 p.m. Thursday about his urban
education theories. Those theories alone elicit strong reactions.
Some call them insightful reform ideas for American inner city
education, while others revile them as too radical or political.
Ayers is a professor of education and senior university scholar at
the University of Illinois at Chicago. He co-wrote the Chicago
Annenberg Challenge grant proposal, which netted $49.2 million over
five years for public-school reform. He was named Citizen of the Year
in Chicago in 1997.
But it is Ayers' past as a co-founder of the violent Weather
Underground during the Vietnam War four decades ago that has
generated most of the controversy.
Among other actions, the Weather Underground was responsible for a
series of bombings in protest of the Vietnam War at such high-profile
locations as the U.S. Capitol.
Ayers says the bombings never killed anyone (although one bomb did
accidentally detonate, killing three members of the Underground), and
he was never convicted in connection with them.
But that hasn't stopped local Republican state House members from
calling on Millersville to cancel the event, citing both Ayers' past
and his urban education reform agenda. Millersville has refused to cancel.
Those who will attend Ayers' presentation hoping to hear about
Vietnam and bombs are likely to be disappointed. Ayers is not coming
to MU to talk about his biography, Kacskos said. "He'll be speaking
on urban education," she said, "period."
Ayers' appearance also is expected to draw an undetermined number of
protesters. Kacskos said the university plans to designate a site on
campus where protesters can gather, although Millersville cannot
lawfully confine protesters to one area.
The lecture is drawing its share of media attention beyond local
newspapers and television.
"We've had a few requests from regional media" to cover the event,
Kacskos said. "The farthest away is someone who says he writes for a
paper in Montana."