Vietnam-era radical Bill Ayers to retire from UIC
For leaders at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the planned retirement from teaching of former Vietnam War-era radical William Ayers will be a great loss.
Never mind that, in hopes of quelling a political storm two years ago, UIC was compelled to release more than 1,000 files detailing the activities of an education reform group that brought together Ayers and then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Or that the university was inundated with questions in 2001 after the release of Ayers’ memoir, “Fugitive Days,” where he wrote about helping with bombings of the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and other government sites.
Vietnam War-era radical William Ayers talks to the Tribune outside his office at the University of Illinois at Chicago in October 2008. (Tribune file photo)
While controversial and even hated by some, Ayers, who has served as an education professor at UIC since 1987, is celebrated on campus for his academic contributions, particularly in the area of school reforms, said UIC education Dean Vicki Chou.
Ayers was unavailable for comment Thursday. But Chou confirmed Thursday that he will retire at the end of the summer.
“He’s been really a very good colleague here,” Chou said. “He has hundreds of students who really cherish that they’ve had the experience of being taught by him.”
Chou admits it hasn’t been dull with Ayers around, saying, “He’s maybe our best-known faculty member in the world.”
“(But) over the years, you just roll with it because we know who he really is, and the good far outweighs any negative press,” she said.
Ayers was a co-founder of the Weather Underground, the radical anti-war group responsible during the late 1960s and early ’70s for a number of bombings, including one in a Pentagon bathroom.
That legacy has been a constant shadow in his life.
During the 2008 presidential election, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin questioned Obama’s ties to Ayers, accusing him of “palling around with terrorists.”
Around the country, speaking events featuring Ayers have been canceled under political pressure and even threats — including one appearance last year at Naperville School District 203.
Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, welcomed the news of Ayers’ retirement. In 2009, Bomke introduced a bill that would have banned anyone who committed an act of violence against the government from working at a public university. The measure didn’t make it out of committee, Bomke said.
“I wish him the best,” Bomke said. “(But) I’m glad he’s retiring.”
Numerous wingnut commenters suggest that he is resigning to accept a position with the Obama administration. Some of them seem to be completely serious.