Middle East studies in the News
Two UI Instructors Listed on Bill Ayers Petition [Rashid Khalidi]
by Rob Daniel
Two University of Iowa instructors are among the more than 3,200 people who have signed an online petition in support of embattled 1960s radical Bill Ayers.
According to the petition's Web site, www.supportbillayers.org, 3,247 endorsements, most from professors and other educators, have been collected in support of Ayers. He has been under fire in recent months for his ties to Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. The campaign of Republican candidate John McCain has used the association of Ayers, a former Weather Underground leader which carried out bombings of the Pentagon and the Capitol, in attacks on Obama. Ayers is now a distinguished education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The petition, which includes the signatures of former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill and former Palestinian Liberation Organization and current Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, stated that characterizations of Ayers as an "unrepentant terrorist" or "lunatic leftist" are "unrecognizable to those who know or work with him. It also said his activities in the 1960s were "history" and his current work in different causes and the education field were more relevant.
Of the names on the petition, two were connected to UI: Geoff Hilsabeck and Hannah Frank, both graduate teaching assistants in rhetoric. Hilsabeck, 27 and a native of Northbrook, Ill., said he agreed with the call of the petition, citing his current work and status as vice president elect of the American Educational Research Association.
"To me, he's very credible," Hilsabeck said. "I know a lot of (stuff) is being thrown at him by the McCain campaign. By working in education, Bill Ayers is working for freedom, not against it."
Frank did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Other Iowa instructors on the list included University of Northern Iowa education professor Rheta DeVries, Iowa State University associate professor women's studies Leslie Rebecca Bloom, and ISU assistant professor of curriculum and instruction Warren J. Blumefeld.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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