SUNY Brockport addresses controversy over convicted cop killer’s speaking engagement with new web page
BROCKPORT, N.Y. (WHEC) — SUNY Brockport has created a page on its website to address the controversy over an event planned for April 6 where Jalil Muntaqim, previously known as Anthony Bottom, will speak.
Muntaqim was convicted of murder for killing two New York City police officers back in 1971. The write-up of the event on SUNY Brockport’s website originally described Muntaqim as a "political prisoner" and did not originally mention his murder conviction. It has since been updated.
The webpage that SUNY Brockport launched Monday adds context to that event, stating:
On April 6, Jalil Muntaqim, previously known as Anthony Bottom, will deliver a talk as an invited guest of a SUNY Brockport faculty member.
Mr. Muntaqim joined the Black Panther Party at age 16 and the Black Liberation Army at 18. In 1971, he was convicted in the killing of two New York City Police Officers. He spent nearly 50 years in prison for this crime before being released on parole in 2020.
While in prison, Mr. Muntaqim was an educator, co-founded the Jericho Movement, and initiated the International Jericho March on Washington (1998) and We Charge Genocide: International Tribunal to the United Nations (October 2021). He is the author of We Are Our Own Liberators. Mr. Muntaqim is a member of Citizens Action Network and People Liberation Program (PLP).
This site is intended to provide comprehensive information about how SUNY Brockport is managing this event. More details about the event will be released as they become available.
Click here for more information about the Black Liberation Army.
It also includes a Frequently Asked Questions section, which currently states that a faculty member invited Muntaqim to speak and that the same faculty member wrote the description of the event.
SUNY Brockport claims its previous policy for calendar events only included "lightly" editing calendar listings for spelling and grammar, "without altering the content of the description" but that the policy is now "under review." The school says it does not endorse the characterization of Muntaqim as a political prisoner, though it does recognize the rights of the faculty member who invited him to speak to describe Muntaqim that way.
SUNY Brockport did not name the faculty member who invited Muntaqim in the webpage, but the calendar page lists the contact person for the event as Rafael Outland, who is an assistant professor in SUNY Brockport’s Department of Counselor Education.
As to why Muntaqim’s event hasn’t been canceled, the college said:
Academic Freedom gives faculty a great deal of autonomy to invite guests of their choosing to campus to address our students. They have a right to pursue research, discuss subject matters, engage in dialogue, and invite speakers to campus. SUNY Brockport believes in freedom of speech and wants to continue to encourage the willingness of the community to engage in critical and respectful dialogue. We have routinely held speaking events involving speakers from various backgrounds and viewpoints, and will continue to do so.
In an email to address the Brockport community, President Heidi Macpherson sent out the following:
Dear Brockport Community:
Welcome back to those of you who are returning from spring break. Over the course of the past week, the campus has received significant attention due to an event that is being organized by one of our faculty members. We know that some of you, and many in the community, have questions.
A webpage is being developed that will provide the answers to some frequently asked questions and will house all of the campus communications related to this event. When it is released, please take time to review it.
The safety and security of our students, faculty, staff, and guests is SUNY Brockport’s top priority. We are anticipating protests around this event and are actively engaged with key partners to develop a safety plan. More information about safety measures will be communicated to campus as it becomes available.
This event has elicited strong feelings and divergent opinions. It has raised First Amendment issues similar to those that have been raised at countless other institutions across the country. Respectful debate, critical thinking, and peaceful protest are encouraged. Violence, racism, hate, and censorship have no place in our community.
The eyes of a large number of people are on our campus. I urge you to take this as an opportunity to demonstrate the best that the SUNY Brockport community has to offer.
I am grateful for your continued commitment to our values.
SUNY Brockport said it is working with the event organizer and "other key partners" to "build a plan that prioritizes the safety of students, faculty, staff, and campus guests" for the event.
As to whether or not the event will be open to the public, the college said, "The logistics associated with this event are currently being finalized."
SUNY Brockport Chief Diversity Officer Damita Davis announced last week that the "Promoting Excellence in Diversity Grant" that was going to pay Muntaqim for the event had been rescinded and that the grant program’s application process would be reviewed and revised.
These moves follow calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and law enforcement communities to stop calling Muntaqim a political prisoner and not to use taxpayer funds to pay him for the appearance.