Lectures and discussions with Bill Ayers cause controversy

The New York City Fire Department tries to put out fires created  by the Weather Underground's accidental bombing of their own safe house in 1970.

The New York City Fire Department tries to extinguish the fires created by the Weather Underground’s accidental bombing of their own safe house in 1970.


By Bradley Holliday, Copy Editor

The College’s invitation to Bill Ayers to speak has been called into question by multiple people. He spoke on “Queering Education” during an nGender session Tuesday, Oct. 1 at noon and again that evening about education reform.

While these conversations were deemed appropriate because of Ayers’   experiences in education, the question remains as to whether or not a more appropriate speaker could have been found. Based on Ayers’ controversial history, it is up for debate on whether or not to heed this man’s advice on how to achieve change.

Bill Ayers co-founded the Weather Underground, a far-left domestic terrorist group, as titled by the FBI. The group was responsible for 73 bombings, most notably those of the Pentagon the Capitol Building, and multiple New York City Police Department stations.

The group’s initial beliefs were laid out in their manifesto “Prairie Fire.” The document stated, “We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society.”

This statement may be defended under the guise that it is not to be taken literally; however, the assertion that “without armed struggle there can be no victory,” cannot be disputed. Ayers is specifically included as an author of this book, along with three other Weathermen.

Ayers’ lack of repentance for his actions is evident, as he stated in an interview for the “New York Times” on Sept. 11, 2001, “I don’t regret setting bombs.” His statement, “I feel we didn’t do enough,” exacerbated his already-apparent belief that violence is the answer to problems in the system (specifically the government’s involvement in Vietnam at the time of the Weather Underground’s foundation). When combined with his lack of remorse, the question is raised as to whether or not he was an appropriate choice to speak on reform in the U.S.

Professor Kaoru Miyazawa introduced Ayers’ before he spoke at the event. She acknowledged the   disapproval of a portion of the student body, but defended the school’s invitation for Ayers’ to lecture.

“He is one of the few scholars who does not see theory and practice as separate,” said Miyazawa.

This statement seems to reinforce the reason why many saw it unfit for Ayers to speak in the first place. She continued, saying “that there is no one like Bill Ayers,” something I surely hope is true.

His talk on education centered on the belief that “every human being is of incalculable value,” and that “the competitive model of education runs a stake into the heart of what education really is.” He espoused theories where every child is provided with individualized education in order for them to succeed.

While in theory this is ideal, it is not at all practical, as evidenced by Ayers’ in ability to provide specifics on his plan.

When asked a question on policies that could be implemented to steer education in his desired way, for example, Ayers dodged the question with an eloquent story of how his brother’s students uncovered the largest human trafficking ring in California. He provided this accomplishment as a direct link to his education ideals while failing to connect the two in between.

The question still lingers as to whether giving Bill Ayers the opportunity to speak at the College was the right thing to do. The answer will undoubtedly vary, depending on whom you ask in the student body. What cannot be doubted, however, is that Bill Ayers is unremorseful for his past violent actions, which blurs feelings about his intents.

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Author: Brendan Raleigh

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1 Comment

  1. I admit to uneasiness at the presence of Bill Ayers on our campus. He was right, I believe, in opposing the Vietnam War. But his unapologietic role in the Weather Underground, an organization that resorted to violence on several occasions, makes the invitation extended to him morally problematic. When this is coupled with the fact that there are plenty of other education authorities out there who could’ve basically delivered the same message he did, it’s just not clear to me why he was chosen. I don’t for an instant question either his legal right to speak here or the right of the persons who brought him to campus to do so. I do, however, question his moral right to speak here as well as the judgment of his inviters.

    Kerry Walters
    William Bittinger Professor of Philosophy; Peace & Justice Studies

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