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The Nation

Teacher's Radical Past Is University's Problem

November 02, 2001|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Some Northwestern University alumni are withholding donations after learning that former Weather Underground radical Bernadine Dohrn is on the law school faculty.

She has been a faculty member for 10 years, but nobody complained until the recent release of a memoir her husband wrote about their days with the Weathermen, said Ronald Vanden Dorpel, vice president for development.

Northwestern said it would lose about $11,300 this year because of Dohrn, who is also director of its Children and Family Justice Center.

One law school graduate demanded and received a refund of his $1,000 donation, and 14 others informed the school they will withhold donations, Vanden Dorpel said.

Dohrn once was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List. She served seven months in prison for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigating a 1981 armored truck robbery in Nyack, N.Y., in which two police officers were killed.

Last summer, her husband, William Ayers, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, published "Fugitive Days." Ayers has been unrepentant about the Weathermen's antiwar bombings. He was never convicted in the bombings.

Sean O'Shea, a lawyer in New York, was the graduate who asked for his money back.

"There should be no room for the talk of law-breaking among the faculty members of a legitimate law school," he told the student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern.

The $11,300 loss in donations is a tiny fraction of the $67.5 million Northwestern received from alumni in the last fiscal year and is less than half the cost of annual tuition for one student.

Officials at Northwestern and the University of Illinois stood behind the two faculty members.

"While many would take issue with the views Ms. Dohrn espoused during the '60s, at the end of the day, her career here at the law school is an example of a person's ability to channel one's energy and passion into making a difference in our legal system," Northwestern law school Dean David Van Zandt wrote in an e-mail to alumni.

University of Illinois spokesman Mark Rosati said the school received 60 to 70 calls, e-mails and letters from alumni and others angry about Ayers. None were from people who made donations.

"This is personal expression unrelated to his duties at the university," Rosati said.

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