Controversy in the Ayers at UConn

William Ayers, the radical activist turned professor, will speak at UConn

On the heels of his visit to Boston College being canceled because of “safety concerns,” current professor and former radical activist Bill Ayers will bring his controversial self to UConn on Thursday.

Ayers, a member of “The Weather Underground,” an organization that claimed responsibility for bombings in the New York City Police Headquarters, the U.S. Capitol Building and The Pentagon in the 1970s, is slated to speak at 3:30 p.m. in the Torrey Life Science Building on campus.

Ayers’ visit is a part of UConn’s “Human Rights Awareness Week,” which is being sponsored by The Human Rights Institute, Idealists United, Connecticut Public Interest Research Group and UConn’s Student Government.

If you weren’t around in the late 1960s or early 1970s you might remember the 64-year-old's name linked to President Barack Obama from media reports during the election season in 2008.

Obama had a very limited relationship with Ayers, whose Chicago home is in the same neighborhood. They served together on the board of a Chicago charity, and in the mid-1990s when Obama first ran for office, Ayers hosted a meet-the-candidate session for Obama at his home. Obama has condemned Ayers' radical activities.

UConn’s College Republicans are strongly opposed to the Ayers’ visit and plan to protest outside the lecture. They are calling for the university president to denounce the event.

“Although they have the right to do so, the groups organizing “Human Rights Awareness Week” have tarnished the image of the University, their entire week of activism, and beliefs by associating them with Mr. Ayers,” the College republicans said in a statement.

Although it will be hard for Ayers to shed his reputation, some say he is a changed man.

“Although I dearly wanted to obtain convictions against all the Weathermen, including Bill Ayers, I am very pleased to learn that he has become a responsible citizen,” William Ibershof told the New York Times last year. Ibershof was the lead prosecutor against the Weatherman terrorist group.

Ayers is currently a professor at University of Illinois – Chicago’s College of Education, and teaches social justice and urban educational reform among other topics.

The Idealists United at UConn, who are sponsoring the lecture, did not immediately return an e-mail for comment.

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