Off the Ayer
Boston College students invited Bill Ayers, a former '60s Weather Underground activist, now an education professor, for a campus lecture in March. At first, administrators approved. But shortly after word of Ayers's appearance escaped the quiet Chestnut Hill campus via conservative talk radio, school officials canceled the event. A BC spokesman claimed that "an emotionally charged protest from the community" gave reason to fear for their oh-so-vulnerable undergrads' safety. This fuzzy rationale was tested when students proposed a satellite telecast of the lecture to the campus. Again, the administration balked. It wasn't until a WVBC student-radio program hosted Ayers nearly a month later that students were able to hear his "radical" ideas — like providing up-to-date textbooks for inner-city schools. Frustrated student organizers, such as the then-vice-president of the BC Democrats Melissa Roberts, told the Phoenix: "This became bigger than Bill Ayers. This became about academic freedom at BC and whether it extends to students." The answer, BC officials showed, was an unmistakable "no."

Harvey Silverglate is a Cambridge-based civil-liberties attorney and author. Kyle Smeallie assisted in writing this article.

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