EXCLUSIVE: Professor who resigned in protest speaks about SUNY Brockport’s ‘anti-police philosophy’ ahead of Jalil Muntaqim event
SUNY Brockport is slated to host an April 6 event titled 'History of Black Resistance, U.S. Political Prisoners & Genocide: A Conversation with Jalil Muntaqim.'
The event characterizes Muntaqim as a 'political prisoner' after he spent 50 years behind bars for the murder of two police officers.
SUNY Brockport is slated to host an event featuring convicted cop-killer Jalil Muntaqim, describing him as a “political prisoner” after he spent 50 years behind bars for the murder of two police officers.
Campus Reform obtained two university emails providing insight into why one professor resigned due to the Muntaqim's invitation and how another faculty member circulated the convict's letter to his "Comrades, Friends, and Supporters."
The Apr. 6 event titled “History of Black Resistance, U.S. Political Prisoners & Genocide: A Conversation with Jalil Muntaqim” will reflect on his time with the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, as well as his co-founding of the Jericho Movement.
The Jericho Movement is dedicated to the idea that members of militant groups who committed acts of violence against the police were “incarcerated because of their political beliefs and acts in support of and/or in defense of freedom.”
The resources page for the event includes a note reading, “We recognize that this event has, and will continue to, elicit strong emotional reactions, and for some, trigger a response to previous trauma.”
It further states that “SUNY Brockport does not endorse the characterization of this individual as a political prisoner. However, we recognize the right of the faculty member (who invited Muntaqim) to characterize him as such.”
Muntaqim was invited to speak at the school by assistant professor Rafael Outland, who will be hosting the event. Outland received his PhD in Counseling and Counselor Education and has written about “the effects of bullying among adolescents” as well as “the effects of media violence on the aggression level of adolescents.”
Outland previously hosted an event titled "Demanding Justice: International Resistance" along with Jalil Muntaqim on Aug. 13 in affiliation with the People's Liberation Program (PLP). The PLP describes itself as "A New Afrikan organization building decolonization programs in the city of Rochester, on Haudenosaunee land."
A larger protest is set to take place on the day of the event.
Following the initial protests, SUNY Brockport decided to move the event to a virtual setting, and further announced that “the possible advent of large numbers of police on campus (on April 6) may be another traumatizing event.”
As a result, the school decided to excuse students’ attendance on the day of the event due to “other circumstances beyond the control of the student.”
Additionally, former Village of Brockport Chief of Police and SUNY Brockport adjunct professor Daniel P. Varrenti resigned from his professorial duties following the announcement of the event and told Campus Reform what led to his resignation.
Shortly after a discrimination lawsuit was filed against the SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson, Varrenti explained, she sent a Sep. 3 email announcement to the school expressing her “sadness and anger” after a black man named Daniel Prude died following a local police encounter in Rochester, New York.
She characterized the incident as “institutional violence against black people” in her email which Varrenti took issue with. He noted in an email reply later that same day that “there is no evidence whatsoever that this death was racially motivated.”
“After 39 years of law enforcement, and 20+ years as an adjunct professor of SUNY Brockport, I feel compelled to respond to your email,” Varrenti replied, expressing his concern with the characterization of Prude’s death.
He told Campus Reform that Prude “died as a result of excited delirium and a number of other conditions,” and disagreed with the media “blaming law enforcement.”
Following his private response to President Macpherson, Varrenti’s Criminal Investigation course was allegedly pulled from the course schedule “even though it was 90% full,” and he explained that he believes this happened “because I exercised my First Amendment rights.”
“I draw that conclusion based on the fact that I taught there for 22 years and never had that happen,” said Varrenti. “I’ve taught in 22 consecutive years.”
He also shed light on an incident in which “The university (police) chief was told to remove the thin blue flag that they had displayed,” which he said demonstrated the school’s “very liberal anti-police philosophy.”
The final straw for Varrenti was SUNY Brockport inviting Jalil Muntaqim to speak on campus.
“That's the totality of the circumstances which caused me to resign," he said.
Campus Reform also obtained a Mar. 29 email sent to SUNY Brockport faculty by Associate Professor of English Tate Shaw. The email contained a letter from Jalil Muntaqim addressed to his “Comrades, Friends, and Supporters.”
In the letter, Muntaqim acknowledges the “heavy and egregious scrutiny” he is under after being invited to speak at the event, and blamed the law enforcement community, who he described as “the armed wing of the state” for the pushback.
He said that such scrutiny leads to a “slippery slope to entrenched fascism” and claimed that by “campaigning” against his speaking event, law enforcement is “essentially aborting First Amendment rights to all others than themselves.”
Daniel Varrenti reacted to the letter, obtained by Campus Reform.
“This has nothing to do with constitutional rights and everything to do with why a college would want to expose their students to a convicted cold-blooded murderer and additionally the philosophy that promotes such exposure," he said.
Campus Reform reached out to SUNY Brockport, Jalil Muntaqim, Heidi Macpherson, Tate Shaw, SUNY Brockport’s Criminal Justice department, and Rafael Outland for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.
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