Recently, information has appeared in the press and been sent out by various political organizations concerning Dr. William Ayers, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who also has a controversial political background. We have received some questions and comments from alumni and other members of the community about his interaction with our University.
I understand the feelings that some have expressed regarding past activities and positions espoused by Dr. Ayers. It is undeniable that Dr. Ayers has a controversial political background, and I do not condone many of the actions in which Dr. Ayers participated in the past in support of his political beliefs.
Let me affirm that while it is acceptable and important in our vibrant democracy that citizens be able to express their political differences, it is certainly not acceptable to express these differences in ways that are harmful and infringe on the rights of others.
Regarding Dr. Ayers' interaction with our University, it has been incorrectly communicated that Dr. Ayers holds the title of "Distinguished Scholar" with the University of South Carolina. This is not true. The University of South Carolina has never given William Ayers the title of Distinguished Scholar. He has no title or ongoing formal connection with our University.
Like hundreds of other highly regarded education experts who share their research and ideas on how to improve education, Dr. Ayers has been invited to speak occasionally at our university, as well as many others like the University of Tennessee, University of North Carolina, University of Florida, Indiana University, University of Missouri, and the University of North Dakota, among many others.
That's because of his 20 years of expertise in reforming urban public education, reaching inner-city youth, and celebrating the role of teachers in improving society. He has a national and international reputation related to dealing effectively with disenfranchised children, youth, and their families, and has written extensively on many issues related to the need to ensure equity and access for children and families in poverty, for those with disabilities, and for those whose minority status often increases the likelihood of the presence of discriminatory practices.
His occasional lectures here have always been focused solely on education, his professional expertise area. He has never been invited to our campus to espouse any political beliefs nor to discuss any of his past behaviors in support of those beliefs.
As a major research university, the University of South Carolina is dedicated to preparing the best and brightest students to assume careers that will ultimately produce benefits for the greater good. As part of that dedication, we often solicit the expertise of those whose professional experiences and scholarship align with the educational needs of our students. In addition, our University, like all great universities, must serve as a place where the free exchange of ideas is not just encouraged but guaranteed.
As with any guest speaker, the University paid his travel expenses and a small stipend. The vast majority of the funds used were provided from private donor accounts designated for professional development and exchange of ideas among speakers and students and faculty. Total state funds used were $2,656, which covered 8 lectures over a 13-year period.