It's a new semester at City College and it'll be a new round of fighting over a campus center's "Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur" sign. The Daily News reports that City Councilman Charles Barron re-placed the controversial sign for the City College NY community center and vows to re-place it if it's taken down again:
"We are here to say to the City University that we have a right to self-determination, that we have a right to free speech, that we have a right to freedom of expression," Barron said. "We are saying that you can't determine who our heroines and heroes are going to be."
Morales and Shakur, both CCNY
one-time students, are both living abroad after escaping custody/prison and are wanted by the authorities. Morales was a bomb maker (one bomb at the Fraunces Tavern killed four) for the Armed Forces of National Liberation and Shakur was convicted of killing a NJ State trooper in 1973; much has been made about whether Shakur actually fired a gun.
City College had agreed to open the student center in 1990, but when CCNY student Sergey Kadinsky sent a letter to the Daily News this past December asking why the sign was up, a tempest was born. City College at first said they were keeping the sign.... then explained a few days later - after much outrage from victims' families and others - that the sign would be coming down. Why? Because the school never officially approved the sign back in 1990! Clearly, the other unspoken reason is that it's hard to justify state funds for a community center named after fugitives.
City College students and alumni have sued the school for violating First Amendment rights by taking down the sign.
Update: City College PR director Ellis Simon comments:
The sign erected by Mr. Barron at City College was removed last night (February 7). This is in keeping with long-standing policy that naming of any facility at the College requires the authorization of the administration and University (CUNY). This clearly was not the case in this instance.
Neither Ms. Shakur nor Mr. Morales are alumni of City College. Ms. Shakur attended CCNY for two years but did not graduate. We have not been able to locate records indicating that Mr. Morales ever attended CCNY.
So, does this mean Barron is headed back there? And do students have an unlimited supply of signs?
Photograph of the Morales/Shakur Center from Sergey Kadinsky