Update on May 29 at 1:09 p.m.- The petition to keep Susannah Bartlow at Marquette has over 440 signatures.
Article updated June 15 at 10:00 a.m.
One day after removing a mural featuring fugitive Assata Shakur from a wall in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, Marquette said the center’s director Susannah Bartlow is not a university employee.
“Susannah Bartlow is no longer an employee with Marquette University,” said University Spokesman Brian Dorrington in an email. “We will work with the Center’s advisory board to search for a new director so that we can continue to grow the important programs in the Center.”
Marquette Student Government said in a statement that it has been actively engaged in handling this situation and is working with university leaders to address it.
“MUSG stands with Marquette University and believes recent decisions were made through a thoughtful process and in accordance with the university’s Guiding Values,” the statement said. “MUSG will be working with university leadership to hire a new director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center as soon as possible. We are committed to protecting the initiatives of the GSRC and supporting its role on campus.”
However, Joshua-Paul Miles, coordinator of MUSG’s Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice Committee, provided a differing statement.
“Marquette University and its actions against its Gender and Sexuality Resource Center are frowned upon by many students and faculty on this campus,” Miles said in his statement. “This center and its staff have been responsible and successful in creating a campus environment of inclusivity, respect and acceptance.”
A petition to keep Bartlow at Marquette is circulating online and has received over 130 signatures, many from students, by the time this article was published.
“We who are in support of this petition and the reinstatement of Bartlow are in no way making a statement about the mural or the woman featured on it,” said alumna Samantha Kemp, co-creator of the petition. “Our efforts are directed solely at the reinstatement of Bartlow.”
Kemp said other people behind the petition’s creation are graduate student Lauren Yadlosky and psychology professor Ed de St. Aubin.
Bartlow joined Marquette in 2012 to establish and direct the GSRC, in addition to serving as a women’s and gender studies professor.
“Marquette’s administrative actions are seen as taking a step back on its initiatives surrounding inclusion,” Miles said in his statement. “I and many others will ensure that the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center continues to create spaces of acceptance and love in the true Jesuit and Catholic mission.”
BACKGROUND ON THE INCIDENT
Marquette removed the mural on May 17 after realizing it featured Shakur. The mural was painted in March with help from Marquette’s Mu Beta chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
The mural included a picture of Shakur’s face and two quotes of hers taken from her autobiography “Assata: An Autobiography.” Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, is on a FBI most wanted list for escaping prison and fleeing to Cuba after she was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973.
Leona Dotson, international communications chairman of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., released an official statement on the mural, stating its theme was approved by the university before the chapter painted it.
“The chapter worked with the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to determine a theme and imagery for the mural,” the statement said. “The chapter, along with other university staff and students, painted a mural that featured an image and quote by Assata Shakur to promote student thinking about their educations and history. Unfortunately 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.”
In a university statement on the mural, the GSRC is referred to as “a remote area on campus.” It is located in room 425 of the Alumni Memorial Union.
“This is extremely disappointing as the mural does not reflect the Guiding Values of Marquette University,” the statement said.
THE MURAL RECEIVES ONLINE ATTENTION
One report of the mural’s existence came May 16 from suspended political science professor John McAdams in a post on his blog, Marquette Warrior. Marquette is in the process of removing McAdams from faculty after he publicly criticized a teaching assistant for not allowing discussion of same-sex marriage in her class last November.
“Now we have yet another case of the extreme leftist agenda of the organization,” McAdams said about the GSRC in his blog post. “Yes, (Shakur) is the sort of person the ‘sexuality’ bureaucrats at Marquette feel deserves to be honored.”
The blog post received attention from media including conservative commentator Michelle Malkin and WTMJ-AM talk show host Charlie Sykes. The GSRC also received criticism on Twitter, its Facebook page and on one of its Facebook posts that was removed. The post was published March 24 and included pictures of the mural.