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BC students hold talk despite admin.’s Ayers cancellation

When Boston College administrators disapproved of a teleconference with University of Illinois at Chicago professor and radical left activist Bill Ayers, which was to be held Monday, students realized they needed a plan B.

In light of recent and previous event cancellations by BC administrators, 300 BC students, faculty and staff attended a modified discussion about the issue of freedom of speech and academic freedom on campus without Ayers, College Democrats Vice President Melissa Roberts said.

‘We were excited to hear about Bill Ayers, but he wasn’t the focus,’ Roberts said. ‘We were trying to bring academic freedom in the purest forms — not the man himself, but his ideas.’

Protesters did not want Ayers, co-founder of a 1960s violent radical left group called Weather Underground, on campus because of his alleged involvement with the death of a Boston policeman in Brighton in the 1970s.’ Ayers had no proven involvement with the incident, Roberts said.

Ayers’ speaking engagement was not the first speech canceled at BC. In the past, GLBT and pro-choice events have been canceled, Roberts said.

‘Things that didn’t fit in the Jesuit university have been canceled,’ she said. ‘Any event that they dislike for any reason without any provocation can be canceled.’

Americans for Informed Democracy, College Democrats and the African Hispanic Asian and Native American Leadership Council invited Ayers to speak at their event. However, the university canceled the event last Friday via email and expressed safety concerns for its students and the community ‘because there have been some angry calls from protesters,’ Roberts said.

‘On Friday, right wing radio talk show host Michael Graham encouraged BC alumni and members of the greater Boston community to protest this event,’ she said. ‘This is no coincidence that the event was canceled [that day].’

BC spokesman Jack Dunn said the teleconference was never approved, and it was suggested as an alternative after students were unable to secure an off-campus location for the talk.

‘The decision is made based on the security and well-being of our students and concern for the neighboring community,’ he said.

However, students were enraged because school administrators had listened to a radio talk show host instead of listening to their own students and faculty, Roberts said.

‘When BC canceled pro-choice events, it was because of Jesuit Catholic ideals, but today, Bill Ayers had no association with that,’ she said. ‘[BC] has no business calling itself a university. Maybe it’s a corporation or a political party, but it sure isn’t a university.’

Even though the teleconference was not approved, Roberts said the substitute discussion was successful.

‘We had an incredible dialogue with the students, and so many people were excited about it, and it was an absolute victory,’ she said. ‘This kind of demonstrates how restrictive this policy is.’

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