1960’s radical William Ayers was denied emeritus faculty status from the University of Illinois when trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy highlighted a book, Mr. Ayers dedicated to, among other individuals, Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Mr. Kennedy’s father, Robert F. Kennedy.
According to various media reports, all nine trustees who voted, either opposed giving Mr. Ayers the emeritus status or abstained from the vote. Schools often give this honor to distinguished retiring faculty members.
The Chicago Sun Times wrote that Mr. Kennedy gave a moving account when he announced his intention to vote against granting Mr. Ayers the status:
“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,” he said, the Sun-Times reported.
“There is nothing more antithetical to the hopes for a university that is lively and yet civil, or to the hopes of our founding fathers for their great experiment of a self-governing people, than to permanently seal off debate with one’s opponents by killing them,” Kennedy added.
“There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so,” he said.
Later, Kennedy told the Sun-Times that he had not seen Ayers display any signs of remorse.
“There’s no evidence in any of his interviews or conversations that he regrets any of those actions — that’s a better question for him,” he told the paper. “He asked for this privilege. He’s not going to get it from me or that board.”
Known for his controversial past with the Weather Underground organization and the 1974 book Prairie Fire, a manifesto for his violent extremist group, where the dedication to RFK’s killer is included, Mr. Ayers was later found to have crossed paths with now-President Obama multiple times in the past through work they did a on a charitable board.
While reporters have not been able to get a response from Mr. Ayers about being denied the honorary status from the school, here is some insight from Mr. Ayers about what he thinks about the Sirhan Sirhan dedication.
Following the presidential of election of Mr. Obama in 2008, I interviewed Mr. Ayers for Newsbusters about whether or not he had regrets over his dedication to Sirhan Sirhan in Prairie Fire:
Bill Ayers in 2008 on Sirhan Sirhan book dedication
PICKET: Professor Ayers you had an unusual dedication to Sirhan Sirhan in your previous book. Do you regret that?
AYERS: Absolutely, but that wasn’t a dedication…show me. You heard it somewhere. The dedication in Prairie Fire in 1974…It was a manifesto was to all prisoners, and if I were writing a book like that today, I would dedicate it to 2.1 million people in prison. I think it was a stupid thing to single him out, but I also think that we have created a monster in the prison system. We ought to abolish the prison system. That’s what I believe.