BC Students Forced to Take Prof. Bill Ayers Off-Campus


Chestnut Hill, MA — After administrators at Boston College forced the cancellation late Friday afternoon of an academic lecture featuring Professor Bill Ayers, student organizers of the event have decided that the show will go on — off-campus.  Student groups and faculty at Boston College drew criticism from a right-wing talk radio show host on Friday after organizing a lecture featuring University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Bill Ayers.

The event, planned for Monday night, was canceled by administrators who cited concerns for the “safety, security, and well-being” of the Boston College community.  Student organizers of the event, despite having worked with administrators weeks in advance, were disappointed by the event’s last-minute cancellation Friday evening.

BC Senior Michael Madormo, one of the student organizers of the event and President of the Americans for Informed Democracy, BC chapter, said, “This event is in no way sanctioning Prof. Ayers’ past actions or the actions of his former associates.  The lecture is merely an opportunity to hear from one of the nation’s preeminent scholars on issues of urban education reform.  At a university, we have the responsibility to hear all voices even if we disagree with them.  Above all, this is an issue of free speech and allowing the student body to hear a unique and respected academic viewpoint.”

Students have struggled with the administration’s restricted interpretation of academic freedom in the past, prompting outcries from the BC community.  Administrators’ cancellation of academic events thought to be against the Jesuit, Catholic doctrine led to protests from the GLBTQ community in 2005, the African-American Hispanic Asian Native American (AHANA) community in 2006, and a referendum earlier this year condemning the lack of dialogue around issues of sexual health.

BC Senior Melissa Roberts, another organizer of the event and a member of the College Democrats said, “BC is setting a dangerous precedent by canceling this event.  In the past, administrators have cancelled events that they see as being at odds with Jesuit, Catholic ideals.  Now, a new precedent has been set which permits the cancellation of any event that is at odds with the ideals of BC’s wealthy and largely conservative donors.  A university should be a place where students can hear all ideas, not just popular or profitable ones.”

Professor Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground and organizer of selfdescribed “acts of extreme vandalism” is now a respected academic at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Ayers has written numerous books and delivered lectures about reforming urban education to develop the whole person, a concept similar to the Jesuit concept of “cura personalis.”  In addition, Professor Ayers was awarded the Citizen of the Year Award in Chicago in 1997.  In his talk, Professor Ayers will address urban education reform and civic engagement in the 21st century.  Professor Ayers has spoken at many prestigious universities in the past, including Harvard, Yale, Georgetown Law School, Cornell, Columbia and Brown.

For more information, contact: Melissa Roberts, robertvw@bc.edu, 913-449-5307.