60 Marquette University Faculty Members SIGN PETITION to Keep Mural Honoring Cop Killer
Assata Shakur, a.k.a. Joanne Chesimard is a former(?) Black Panther and Black Liberation Army agitator and cop killer. She has been a fugitive from justice for nearly 40 years and openly thumbs her nose at her victim’s family while living in Cuba as a political asylee. In 1973, Chesimard shot and killed New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster execution-style during a traffic stop. She is currently hiding from US authorities in Cuba.
As Officer Foerster lay on the ground wounded and helpless, Shakur grabbed his gun and blasted two shots into his head.
In May the university put up a mural to honor cop-killer Assata Shakur.
The story went viral on the internet.
University officials called for the removal of the mural after the story made national news.
But now 60 faculty members have signed a petition to keep the cop-killer mural on campus.
The Marquette Warrior reported:
We now have the text of the petition signed by over 60 Marquette faculty and staff, protesting the removal of a mural of cop killer and terrorist Assata Shakur from a wall in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.
First, the text of the e-mail cover send out with the letter:
Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
Please read and consider signing the attached statement regarding the removal of the Assata Shakur mural from the GSRC office and the firing of GSRC Director Susannah Bartlow. This statement will be sent to members of the University Leadership Council. After reading this statement, email me if you’d like to sign and I will add your name and university department/position to the list of signees. You may sign anonymously, if you prefer. In that case, you will be listed as “Assistant Professor, Name Withheld” or “Staff Member, Name Withheld” (or perhaps “Staff Member, Libraries, Name Withheld”).
Professor Emeritus, Psychology Department
Now the text of the letter itself:
The recent events on campus in response to the mural of Assata Shakur and the subsequent firing of the GSRC director, Susannah Bartlow, demand a response. As faculty, we would hope that a university administration would respond with a critical and careful concern for our students, our faculty, and our staff. In short, the administration should act with discernment following a process of examen and reflection. The university’s response has been the exact opposite. As a faculty, we submit that the following were not weighed in considering the process for engaging the mural, erasing the mural, and terminating Dr. Bartlow. The incident has raised critical questions that the university ought to have considered before any decisions were made.
First and foremost, there was no consideration of the intellectual or scholarly traditions in which Shakur is invoked and engaged. While she is certainly a controversial figure, by adopting the narrative of pure vilification, the university has applied a problematic standard. The opportunity to sponsor a discussion about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the mural’s subject was completely lost. Any context about race, policing, and the present moment and historical legacy surrounding these issues were ignored, including any reflection on Marquette’s own place within the social justice landscape. Did the administration consider the chilling impact of the erasure of the image within the context of present conversations about police brutality and black life? To disappear the mural with no engagement or conversation was to deny the role of such symbols in the social critique of police and to selectively erase some difficult histories while leaving others untouched. For a university to adopt a position informed solely by police is problematic in that they are but one stakeholder in our community. Students, staff and faculty are the other stakeholders on this campus, and their perspective and knowledge ought to have been weighed.
Second, the racial politics of the erasure of the mural were not considered with care. A group of black women students asks for a space to self-educate and explore. They paint a mural of a controversial black female figure. The figure is erased. Were the students consulted? Were they offered an opportunity to engage? To defend their choice? Were they offered opportunities for education and coursework? Was any of the care for their whole persons extended on the part of the university? Or was their initial request, that for space to invest in the representations of black women on campus, simply denied and stripped away? Where is the care for our students, their desire to engage in serious and difficult conversations? Does the university note that the involvement of Professor McAdams in drawing attention to the mural after its painting on March 24, 2015, means that a white male professor’s voice has taken prominence over the voices of many black female students, and the staff who took their project seriously and sought to give them space for conversation? What is the university planning to do to make those students whole? There is also the issue of whether similar standards are applied to other figures with problematic legacies, and how the term “terrorist” is itself not a neutral moniker, but one that is deeply racialized and politicized. For example, while Nelson Mandela is honored as a freedom fighter, he and the ANC were literally branded terrorists by the apartheid state in South Africa. Mandela remained on the U.S.’s lists of terrorist until 2008. Conversely, Thomas Jefferson is largely celebrated at the University of Virginia and at many universities across the country as a founding father and celebrated figure in our democratic history. Simultaneously, a robust and well-documented understanding of his legacy of slave ownership and sexual exploitation is well known in scholarly and popular discourse. As universities, which problematic legacies do we quietly accept, and which do we hold accountable? Is their [sic] racial and gender parity in how these standards are applied? Are we condoning some forms of violence while rejecting others?
Finally, was the process by which Dr. Bartlow was terminated appropriate and proportional? Was the board of the GSRC asked to weigh in? As the GSRC’s charter dictates that all decisions impacting the operations and future of the center must be vetted through the board, how was the board included in the decision-making process? Is immediate termination an appropriate course of action given the sequence of events, and was Dr. Bartlow’s contribution to enriching the research and teaching practices on campus outweighed by the perception of transgression in this case? Was her expertise in bringing best practices around LGBTQ advocacy, sexual assault prevention and advocacy, allyship, and student support outweighed by this event? Does the administration consider how difficult it will be to replace Dr. Bartlow and that this hasty decision undermines the momentum of the GSRC, and compromises the students, staff and faculty who depend on the center’s resources and role at the university to enrich our work? Has the university considered the impact on future enrollments of our student body, or future faculty hires? How will this decision impact the quality of student, staff and faculty life in the future?
Given the failures of the administration to act in a manner befitting a scholarly Jesuit institution, we ask the university respond to these queries, put in place processes to secure the future of the GSRC, to support students of color, and to embrace difficult conversations. Chiefly, it is clear that as the original recommendations for chartering the GSRC indicated, the GSRC must be directed by a tenured faculty member. In addition, programs such as Africana Studies and Women and Gender Studies must be adequately resourced, and care for our students, particularly students of color, must be exercised in the university’s practices, and not simply its words.
Stephen L. Franzoi, Psychology
They actually are playing the race card to keep a mural honoring cop killers – and 60 faculty members went along with it!