About 3,000 professors sign support for Ayers

Brown Daily Herald
Brown University, U-Wire

More than 3,000 educators have signed a statement supporting William Ayers — the man Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain called a “washed-up terrorist” at the third presidential debate last Wednesday.

No USF professors have signed it so far, though Florida International University and the University of Florida have had four current and former educators sign it.

In recent months, the McCain campaign has criticized Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama for his connection to Ayers. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have accused Obama of being “friends” with Ayers and claimed Obama has hidden the extent of their relationship.

Both residents of the Chicago area, Ayers and Obama first met in 1995 when they served on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a school reform initiative. They also were board members of the Woods Fund, a Chicago charity, from 2000 to 2002.

Ayers, now a distinguished professor of education and senior university scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was a co-founding member of the radical activist group the Weather Underground in 1969. The group’s extreme tactics to end the Vietnam War included planting bombs in the Pentagon and the United States Capitol.

In response to the McCain campaign’s focus on Ayers’ radical acts of the 1960s and 1970s, “Friends and supporters of Bill Ayers” are circulating a statement online to vouch for the professor he has become.

Ayers was one of the original proponents of “free schools,” where students call teachers by their first names and don’t receive grades on assignments.

The Oracle contributed to this report.