Controversial mural removed from Marquette campus, and resource center director is out of a job

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The director of Marquette University's Gender and Sexuality Resource Center is out of a job. This, one day after FOX6 News told you about a controversial mural removed from campus.

Within hours of learning about concerns over a mural on display on the Marquette University campus, school officials had it removed. The mural showed Assata Shakur -- an African-American activist convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973. On Tuesday, May 19th, Marquette University announced the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center's director has been terminated. Because this is a personnel matter, officials at MU won't say whether the termination is related to the mural controversy.

The mural had been up since March -- displayed on the fourth floor of the Marquette University Alumni Memorial Union -- inside the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. University officials say this is not a well-traveled area, so they just recently learned of concerns regarding the mural. It has been removed.

Assata Shakur mural

Shakur is on the FBI's list of "Most Wanted Terrorists."

John McAdams, an associate professor at Marquette University, says he wasn't expecting to see a mural featuring the fugitive and convicted murderer on campus.

"What in the world were they thinking?" McAdams said.

McAdams pointed out murals on campus are usually reserved to honor someone.

Assata Shakur

Shakur, a former civil rights activist with the Black Panthers was convicted in 1973 of killing a New Jersey state trooper execution style. A few years later, she escaped from prison and is now living in Cuba.

"A professor can hang something on their door, or office and that`s just their space. But if it`s a mural on a wall of a Marquette office then that is Marquette University`s official action. And that`s what`s so odd, so strange about this," McAdams said.

Marquette University officials say they had no idea this mural inside the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center on the fourth floor of the Alumni Memorial Union even existed. They say once they found out, more than two months after it went up, they took action.

"I was very disheartened," Joseph Martinez II, a recent Marquette graduate said.

Martinez II and other MU students are upset the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center's director is no longer with the university.

"What she`s done is create a very safe space for students," Martinez II said.

A Marquette spokesman confirms Susannah Bartlow is no longer with the university, but wouldn't elaborate as to why -- calling this a "personnel matter."

Students associated with MU's Gender and Sexuality Resource Center led a recent protest against the university -- citing concerns over a lack of action on LGBT and minority issues. Some were arrested.

Some students believe Bartlow lost her job as a result of the controversial mural.

On the Facebook page for the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, a post suggests a Marquette sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha helped make the mural possible.

A statement from the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. reads as follows:

"In March 2015, the MU Beta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. at Marquette University hosted a series of scheduled campus based service projects and activities for Marquette University students.  As part of these activities, MU Beta members proposed a mural theme, which was approved by Marquette University, to be painted at the university’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

The chapter worked with the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to determine a theme and imagery for the mural.

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.

Throughout Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s 107-year history of service, the organization has consistently been a beacon of peace, nonviolence, and justice for all mankind.  In no way, does the organization of more than 283,000 members condone, promote, or tolerate the killing or violent activities of anyone.

In order to prevent a recurrence, AKA is in the process of reminding all of its chapters, both undergraduate and graduate about the importance of thoroughly vetting any person who might be promoted by the sorority before any action is taken."

"The quotes (on the mural) are actually very empowering for students and regardless of who said those quotes, they are very important to the students," Martinez II said. "The fact that the university was so quick to paint over it when they found out without even asking the opinion of students -- that`s also discouraging."

A Marquette spokesman says after realizing Shakur was a convicted felon, university officials felt she wasn't the type of person they wanted to uphold to students, so they took action.