Allen Hall houses former fugitives

By Nick Escobar

A woman who former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once called “the most dangerous woman in America,” along with her husband, who helped bomb the Pentagon, will call Allen Hall home this week.

Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers were once members of the Weather Underground, a small group of radical students and protesters who tried to overthrow the United States government in the 1970s in reaction to the Vietnam War.

“Hello, I’m going to read a declaration of a state of war. … Within the next 14 days we will attack a symbol or institution of American injustice,” said Dohrn in 1970 – a statement that was followed by bombings and terrorist activities that led to one of the largest FBI manhunts in history. Dohrn made the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.

Dohrn and Ayers evaded police for years and are now free from prosecution because of a five-year statute of limitations for federal crimes that do not include murder or a federal indictment.

The couple, now working inside the system as professors at two Chicago-area universities, will spend this week in Allen Hall, 1005 W. Gregory Drive, as part of Unit One’s guest-in-residence program.

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Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, founded the Center for Youth and Society at UIC. He has written on social justice, education and other social concerns. His book Fugitive Days is an account of his time in the Weather Underground.

Dohrn has a law degree from the University of Chicago and is a clinical professor and director of the Northwestern University School of Law’s Children and Family Justice Center.

Kannan Puthuval, sophomore in LAS and resident advisor, has been assigned to escort professors Dohrn and Ayres during their stay on campus. He said he is interested in hearing what they have to say about free speech in schools and their exploits in the Weather Underground.

“The last guest-in-residence told us how Bill Ayers blew up the monument to the Haymarket Riots and that got me interested,” he said, referring to a Chicago statue memorializing policemen killed in a clash with labor protesters in 1886. Weather Underground members bombed the statue in the 1970s.

The couple will give a series of lectures throughout the week at Allen Hall. Today’s events include a showing of the Academy-Award nominated documentary The Weather Underground. They plan to have a discussion following the film.

On Tuesday, they will hold a discussion entitled “Teaching toward Freedom” at 7 p.m. followed by another lecture at 9 p.m. entitled “Don’t Let Your Life Make a Mockery of Your Values.”

Ayers and Dohrn plan to discuss race, prisons, human rights, children and schools on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. On the last day of their stay, Thursday, they will hold a writing seminar entitled “Writing your Life: Personal Essay and Memoir.”

The lectures are open to the public. All lectures will be in either the Allen Hall main lounge or the south recreation room located in the basement of the residence hall.