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Grand Forks Herald


Invitation Shames UND

March 26, 2008

By John Leo

UND is sponsoring a lecture by 1960s bomber Bill Ayers, now a professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Three groups invited Ayers to speak April 3: the Department of Educational Foundations and Research, the College of Education and Human Development and Students for a Democratic Society.

Three other groups-Young Americans for Freedom, the College Republicans and Females for Firearms-asked UND President Charles Kupchella to condemn the Ayers invitation ("UND college won't withdraw sponsorship of speaker," Page B4, March 25).

Kupchella refused to do, issuing a statement that said, "A good case has not been made-ever-that free speech (speech not otherwise unlawfully harmful) should sometimes or by some people be suppressed in the interest of freedom."

Kupchella's statement is an unusually slippery one. The case has been made many times that colleges are right to deny a platform to certain egregious and unrepentant characters. Presumably, UND would have had no compunctions about rejecting speeches by the Unabomber, the head of the Klan, a Sept. 11 terrorist or a visiting pro-slavery Muslim politician from Africa.

Columbia University, under pressure from its far left Middle East faculty, should never have invited Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who runs a terrorist regime and favors, among other things, the obliteration of Israel and the murder of homosexuals.

The folly was compounded by a dean who said Columbia would have invited Adolf Hitler, if the Fuhrer had agreed to debate and answer questions.

The vision of a university as a community of scholars and students pursuing truth and defending civilization entirely disappears when bureaucrats see no problem in welcoming terrorists and mass murderers. Perhaps to reassure readers, the Herald's story says that Ayers "never was convicted of a crime and has since said violence is not the way to achieve SDS goals." That's misleading. Ayers would very likely have been convicted if prosecutors (guilty of misconduct) and the FBI (illegal surveillance) hadn't screwed up the case.

Yes, Ayers has said, sort of, that violence is not the right path, but he also told The New York Times, in an interview published on Sept. 11, 2001, that "I don't regret setting bombs, I feel we didn't do enough." In his book, he says he participated in the bombing of the New York City's police headquarters in 1970, the Capitol building in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972. The reference to the Pentagon may not be true, since Ayers said his book mixes fact and fiction.

Like his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, he defended the bombings they committed in the name of ending the Vietnam War, on grounds that they killed no one, except accidentally their own members. Three allies. the Weather Underground died in 1970 in an explosion while making bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse.

Ayers has danced around the subject of an apology for years, without flatly saying he regrets what he did. Asked by the Times if he would do it all over again, he said, "I don't want to discount the possibility." Come to think of it, maybe UND would welcome the Unabomber, too.



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