Magazine article American Libraries

Conservative Writer Accuses Library of Denying Access to Obama Records

Magazine article American Libraries

Conservative Writer Accuses Library of Denying Access to Obama Records

Article excerpt

Following accusations by conservative political writer Stanley Kurtz that the University of Illinois at Chicago blocked his access to documents that might portray Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in an unpatriotic light, the university issued a statement August 22 that the material will be "available for public inspection" August 26.

Charging that UIC's Richard J. Daley Library prevented him from examining materials that might connect Obama's political agenda with those of radical activist William Ayers, Kurtz had demanded that UIC "take immediate public steps to insure the safety of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge records, to release the identity of the collection's donor, and above all to swiftly make the collection available to me, and to the public at large."

The UIC statement says that "authority to grant public access to the archives was recently called into question" but that "university officials promptly initiated a thorough inquiry into the legal circumstances of the gift and its custody of the documents. Pending resolution of this challenge, access to the archives in their secure location was temporarily suspended." It goes on to say that the university has "determined that the terms of the gift have been fulfilled and that it has the legal authority to allow public access to its archive of Chicago Annenberg Challenge documents in accordance with the customary procedures of the Special Collections Department of the UIC library."

Established largely through the efforts of Ayers, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge was a nonprofit public-private partnership founded in 1995 to improve school performance. Now a professor of education at UIC, Ayers is also an unapologetic former member of the Weather Underground, a leftist organization that organized a riot in Chicago in 1969 and bombed buildings in the 1970s. Obama served as the CAC board's first chair; he remained on the board until the project ended in 2001 but has denied any ties with Ayers's radical past.

Kurtz claimed in the August 18 National Review Online that he was "assured by a reference librarian that, although I have no UIC affiliation, I would be permitted to examine the records. …

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