Phillip, whom I respect as a constructive and thoughtful contributor to this blog, raises the issue of academic freedom in connection with Bill Ayers and USC:
Like it or not, for many years now Ayers has been recognized as an
authority in the field of public education, and his academic standing
as professor at the University of Chicago attests to that. That’s the
reality as it exists today. If USC is to be a place where academic
freedom exists, where students are able to be exposed to a wide variety
of competing ideas, the School of Education would be remiss in not at
least including Ayers’ writings as part of their curriculum. You can
see from the website I cited that the conflicting issues raised by
Ayers’ presence or the study of his work were indeed freely "ayred."
(sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)
Anyway, as someone who has a strong record of supporting public
education in this state, it would seem that you would want our USC
students to have the widest knowledge possible in that field, as they
grapple with the challenges they will face in that terrain.
It’s not up to USC to make political/law enforcement judgments above
and beyond what our courts and domestic institutions have arrived at.
The University’s only role is to judge the academic worth of what a
scholar has to offer. There are no outstanding criminal charges against
Ayers; beyond that, if he is good enough to be a tenured professor at U
of C, you can (to borrow another 60’s phrase) bet your sweet bippy that
he’s good enough to give a visiting lecture or two at USC. In those
situations, if a student wants to walk out, or picket, that is also
absolutely appropriate and their right to do so.
Here’s the thing about that: William Ayers has placed himself beyond such bourgeois considerations. Academic piety is insufficient to excuse the man who, in an interview published in The New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001 (yes, that date is correct), said "’I don’t regret setting bombs. ‘I feel we didn’t do enough.” In the same interview, he said he did not recall having said in 1970, explaining the Weatherman philosophy, "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the
revolution home, kill your parents, that’s where it’s really at." But he acknowledged, "it’s been quoted so many times I’m beginning to think I did.” He further explained that ”It was a joke about the distribution of wealth.”
In my book, that makes him persona non grata. The private sector can do what it will, but NO taxpayer-supported institution should employ him for any reason, even temporarily, even in an arms-length relationship. It should be the duty of a public institution to divest itself of any such involvement, however tenuous.