Ayers speech postponed due to concerns about preparation

Nomaan Merchant

A Muslim-cultural Student Association event featuring controversial former activists William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn has been postponed from Thursday night to “a later date in the winter,” university administrators and McSA leaders said Tuesday night.

The decision was made by Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis, University Police and other officials in a Tuesday afternoon meeting.

University spokesman Al Cubbage cited “a variety of things that had not been finalized,” including security and contracts with the speakers, as reasons for delaying the event.

“There were just a lot of unanswered questions, and we felt that going into what could be a fairly major event with the possibility of security issues two days before … would simply not be a wise decision,” Cubbage said.

According to McSA co-president Mustafa Rahman, UP had received calls from students who said they intended to protest outside Cahn Auditorium during the event, called “Peaceful Progress: A Discourse on Affecting Change.” Imam Zaid Shakir, a black Muslim scholar, was also scheduled to appear.

“They couldn’t logistically … ensure the security of Northwestern students as well as the three speakers,” Rahman said.

McSA submitted contracts for university approval Monday morning, just three days before the event was to take place.

Both group leaders and members said the decision to invite Ayers and Dohrn was controversial. One McSA member who opposed bringing the couple agreed that security was a “real concern.”

“This gives the McSA an opportunity to reconsider if this is the best idea,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous.

Ayers and Dohrn were both founders of the Weather Underground, a ’60s radical group. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Republicans sought to tie Ayers to President-elect Barack Obama, a resident of Ayers’ South Side neighborhood.

Christina Chaey and Libby Nelson contributed reporting.

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