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updated: 5/9/2014 12:25 PM

Kennedy: Kilgore shouldn't work at U. of Illinois

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  • James Kilgore

    James Kilgore
    Associated Press

Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN -- While a campus committee weighs whether former 1970s radical James Kilgore should work at the University of Illinois, the chairman of the board that oversees the university believes the instructor's violent past should rule him out.

Kilgore came to work at the university's Urbana-Champaign campus after serving a prison term for second-degree murder for his role in a 1975 California bank robbery committed by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Last month, he said he was told he wouldn't be rehired after this semester, but a campus committee was named to review that decision.

In an interview Thursday with The News-Gazette in Champaign ( ), Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy said he believes criminals who have served their sentences should be able to find work. But he said someone who used violence to express disagreement with the government shouldn't have a place on a public campus.

"Should a domestic terrorist bent on overthrowing the government by targeting the murder of police and who was involved in a killing be on the public payroll? The answer is no," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said, however, he wants the committee process to play out.

Kilgore did not immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press seeking comment. He previously told the AP that he believed the decision not to rehire him was based on political pressure and infringed on academic freedom.

Kilgore, 66, was released from state prison in California in 2009, after serving six years for second-degree murder for taking part in the bank robbery in California in which housewife Myrna Opsahl was shot to death. He served an earlier federal sentence for using a dead infant's birth certificate to obtain a passport and for possession of a pipe bomb found in his apartment.

The SLA was best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in 1974. After the bank robbery, Kilgore lived for 27 years at large, spending much of that time in South Africa.

After his release he came to work at the university, where his wife is an associate professor. Kilgore this semester is teaching two classes, on global studies and fine and applied arts.

Some on campus have called for Kilgore to continue teaching.

But Kennedy noted that the university gets a significant portion of its funding from public sources.

"And taxpayers, the people in our state, will be alarmed, have been alarmed, by the notion we are putting a domestic terrorist on the public payroll," he said.

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