Marquette University has apparently dumped Susannah Bartlow, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center director after the center celebrated the completion of a mural featuring convicted Assata Shakur who was convicted of an execution style killing of a New Jersey trooper in 1973. The mural was joint project of the Center and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
It is astonishing that a mural would be completed without someone making a minimal inquiry as Shakur’s identity as a cop killer and a terrorist. Born JoAnne Deborah Byron, Assata Olugbala Shakur was a member of the former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army with a long criminal record. In May 1973, she was involved in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike and accused of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and wounding Trooper James Harper. She was indicted in relation to six other incidents including murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping. In 1979, she escaped and fled to Cuba. The FBI has classified her as a domestic terrorist and offered a $1 million reward for assistance in her capture. Her history is not hard to find obviously on dozens of websites.
Given that history, it is unbelievable that Bartlow and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority would select her as the inspiring figure for the university. The controversy was triggered by a blog critique by associate professor of political science John McAdams.
Following the disclosure, the university announced that “Susannah Bartlow is no longer an employee with Marquette University.” The sorority’s international communications chairman Leona Dotson said that “[u]nfortunately Ms. Shakur’s entire history and background was not fully researched. If that process had occurred, she would not have been featured in the mural.”
It is a remarkable turnaround for university. The Center released a tweet on March 24th proclaiming “TADA, our mural is finished! In commemoration of the courageous, Assata Shakur.” I could think of many things to call Shakur many things but “courageous” is not one of them.
According to her bio, Bartlow is a graduate of the University of Buffalo with past association with Dickinson College, State University of New York at Buffalo, UB Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender.
The two quotes selected were:
“No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.
Before going back to college, I knew I didn’t want to be an intellectual, spending my life in books and libraries without knowing what the hell is going on in the streets. Theory without practice is just as incomplete as practice without history. The two have to go together.”