Kennedy's vote on Ayers: Private and public views

Kennedy's vote on Ayers: Private and public views

Before his surprise vote to deny a professor the honor of emeritus status, Christopher Kennedy never spoke publicly about his feelings about William Ayers, who co-wrote a book dedicated to the man who assassinated his father.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees chairman consistently kept quiet during an anti-Ayers campaign that lasted more than a year in trustees' meetings, the president's house and several forms of media.

A Dewey man, Mark Thompson, hammered at the board in 2009 to investigate Ayers, a former radical who later spent more than two decades as an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

Thompson also targeted Ayers' March 2009 public speaking at Allen Hall in Urbana, for which police briefly detained him, and took out a full-page newspaper ad condemning the professor.

As board chairman, it fell to Kennedy to tell Thompson more than once to sit down and keep quiet when the Dewey man interrupted a trustees meeting in Springfield on Nov. 12, 2009.

Thompson, who had spoken in the public comment section of an earlier 2009 meeting in Urbana, was told that he was repeating himself and would not be allowed further public comment time.

Thompson responded by shouting for the trustees to answer him about Ayers during the body of the meeting.

But Kennedy always kept his feelings to himself.

"He pretty much keeps his own counsel. He speaks when he has something to say," says Tom Hardy, the UI's chief spokesman.

Ike Saunders, the chairman's executive assistant, said Friday that Kennedy would have no further comment on Ayers.

On Thursday, Kennedy stunned a roomful of spectators into silence when, speaking quietly, he moved from a philosophical discussion of education to a specific statement about Ayers, who retired in August and was seeking emeritus status, which adds no remuneration.

The trustees voted unanimously not to give Ayers the status, which Kennedy stressed is a privilege, not a right.

"I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy. There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so," Kennedy said just before the unanimous vote, which was not preceded by any discussion.

Kennedy was 4 years old when his father was killed in 1968.

Thompson said Friday that he believes the trustees were acting out of fear for their political careers, not in solidarity against an assassin.

"The University of Illinois knows they are in the targets and sights of a lot of people because of Bill Ayers, and this is a very public way to distance themselves," he said.

He added that the move has little consequence for Ayers, who has finished his career.

"This won't hurt Ayers," he said.

For his own part, Thompson said his family has been punished for his anti-Ayers stance.

His daughter, Kelly, lost her scholarship on the UI Springfield's basketball team at the end of the last season..

"It was in retribution for my actions," Thompson said.

Derek Schnapp, director of public relations at UI Springfield, denied the accusation.

"As far as athletic scholarships go, they are year-to-year, and we do not publicly speak about specifics when it comes to student privacy. Mr. Thompson had requested numerous times to meet with the chancellor about his views, and Mr. Thompson has not only met with the chancellor and other senior administrators, but has been repeatedly told his views had nothing to do with any student losing a scholarship," he said.

Thompson, a longtime activist with his own website, campconservatism.com, has made Ayers his first target, with President Barack Obama as his eventual aim.

Near the beginning of his anti-Ayers campaign, Thompson visited the home of then-UI President B. Joseph White.

"We the people, of the United States of America, state publicly on May 2nd 2009, that the subversion of education by the Socialist movement within education must be acknowledged and stopped," he said in an open letter to the president and the governor.

In an Aug. 29, 2009, full-page ad in The News-Gazette, Thompson wrote:

"I am on a mission, some call a crusade, to have Bill Ayers investigated for academic misconduct and sedition, expose Obama's close ideological ties to Ayers, and unite America in a non-violent revolt against Socialism."

He complained that the UI administration was not willing to address his concerns.

"Unfortunately, the governor is the only remaining board member with a voice, in a lame duck session, the head of our state's law enforcement, but still, a part of the Chicago machine, God help us. I have repeatedly asked the board, as well as President (B. Joseph) White, to respond to my concerns via email. This issue is of much greater consequence nationally then the admissions scandal and yet they do not address these justified concerns," he wrote in the ad.

Thompson's last attempt to speak was at the November board meeting.

"I tried in Springfield and they denied me the right to speak. They said they'd heard everything I have to say and I wanted a response from them – they never once addressed any of my concerns for a year and a quarter," Thompson said.

"There was a lull in the action where I asked (Kennedy) if I could speak. He said I could during audience participation. Some people were called to speak, then he went to dismiss the meeting. He just shut the meeting down. He slammed the gavel down."

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John O'Connor wrote on September 25, 2010 at 11:09 am

I unreservedly condemn violence, even if, as Ayers states, the violence is aimed at property and not individuals. He denies being involved in the police station bombing and I don't know if he was or not. Still, any violence is not acceptable.

I also understand and support Kennedy for voting against emeritus status. Including Sirhan on the list of people the book was dedicated to was, I believe, very wrong. Ayers' subsequent work in education reform was very good and I don't object to Ayers being on the faculty.

Mark Thompson has his own extreme right wing agenda and he certainly doesn't speak for all citizens when he says he wants to try Ayers for 'sedition.'

ractivist wrote on September 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Ayers subsequent work in education wasvery good? Are you nuts or uninformed. The man has lead the post Vietnam era in hating America. He has used the educational system to build an anti American curriculum also known as the social justice movement, Barack Obama's political platform. But you know this. You are a liberal who belives America is Imperialist, racist, oppressive and the only way to deal with this is to change the republic to a socialist democracy. It's the corruption stupid, should be the rights mantra as the lefts. It is not the form of our government. Everywhere a collectivist approach has been tried, corruption has been it's downfall. History is very clear on this. Believe it or not, Che, Castro, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini and Hitler were all nice guys, to some. To others it meant death, destruction and too often genocide. Ayers represents this, he knows that much of the aforementioned will come to bare if his revolution succeeds, do you? There are way too many red, white and blue Americans who will not give their freedom up without a fight. Ayers is Obama, and you should be very concerned.

Stalin called them "useful idiots", those who know not what they do, yet suffer equally in the end. I propose that you and any others who defend or cheer Ayers is either ignorant of the facts, a useful idiot, or you are steadfast in your anti American ways and therefore just plane ignorant. No understanding American can accept socialist or communist theory. It does not work, the human condition, the pschology of opportunity works, the psychology of entitlement doesn't. Proven over and over throughout all of history.

As to my extreme views. I know the blood that was shed to protect America, the exceptional country it is. This is the truth. Focus on the big picture, not the blemishes. Ayers lies by omission and deception. There is some truth in his words, but again, the reality of our day is one of greatness due to capitalism and limited government. Ayers was a self promoter, his lectures always built him up and brought the US down. He worked to change the mindset of the educators, and he did. Today we face the reality, as so many useful idiots, a minority in reality, just vocal, spew his narrative. You must realize, if you believe he was a great educator, you have been brainwashed. All his works focused on one thing, revolution! If he is successfull you will suffer the same fate as all, the reality of a useful idiot.
campconservatism.com reveals much about Ayers, if you are open minded.

John O'Connor wrote on September 27, 2010 at 9:09 am

This uninformed rant proves my point.

spangwurfelt wrote on September 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm

So Thompson repeatedly abuses a forum and then complains that they won't let him abuse it more. Gee, Sherlock, must be a socialist plot!

raisonbrann wrote on September 26, 2010 at 9:09 am

Apparently it takes a Kennedy to identify undeserved privilege.

He should have excused himself from the procedings if he felt the topic of Ayers book was an issue that would prevent him from making an unbiased decision.

Would he also vote the same way if Ayers had written a book on the human rights abuses his grandfather committed, if so are we interested in a true education or a white washing of history?

Unfortunately this vote was personal not professional cast to punish free speech (however unpleasant to some, or should I say one.)

raisonbrann wrote on September 26, 2010 at 9:09 am

Apparently it takes a Kennedy to identify undeserved privilege.

He should have excused himself from the procedings if he felt the topic of Ayers book was an issue that would prevent him from making an unbiased decision.

Would he also vote the same way if Ayers had written a book on the human rights abuses his grandfather committed, if so are we interested in a true education or a white washing of history?

Unfortunately this vote was personal not professional cast to punish free speech (however unpleasant to some, or should I say one.

windsurf1 wrote on September 26, 2010 at 11:09 am

Ayers is a murder and a professional brainwasher. I'm glad Mark Thompson has brought the light of day on Bill Ayers. Ayers has advocated redistributive change, lets start by redistributing his pension to the students in the form of lower tuition.

WiltonDiary wrote on October 01, 2010 at 10:10 am

Please be more specific, who and when did Ayers murder anyone?

You have no credibility, absolutely none when you make commens like this.