University of Illinois denies Bill Ayers emeritus status
In a very unusual move, University of Illinois trustees Thursday denied giving emeritus status to controversial retired professor William Ayers.
The vote, at a U. of I. board meeting in Urbana, was unanimous and came after a passionate speech by board chair Christopher Kennedy, who invoked the 1968 assassination of his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in saying that he was voting his conscience.
The other trustees, without comment, also voted against the appointment.
Ayers, the Vietnam War-era radical, had been an education faculty member at UIC since 1987. He retired effective Aug. 31 and then sought the emeritus faculty status, a largely honorific title that includes some benefits such as library privileges.
A co-founder of the Weather Underground anti-war group, Ayers was frequently in the media spotlight and, as such, was one of the university’s best-known faculty members.
While trustees regularly vote on emeritus appointments, they rarely comment about them.
But in an emotional statement, Kennedy discussed his reasons for voting against Ayers’ request.
“I am 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,” Kennedy said.
He said he could not confer the title “to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father.”
Kennedy was referring to a 1974 book co-authored by Ayers, “Prairie Fire,” which was dedicated to a long list of people including Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan and “all political prisoners in the U.S.”