BROCKPORT, N.Y. (WROC) — SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson announced Wednesday that an upcoming controversial event scheduled to take place on campus has been moved to a virtual format.
SUNY Brockport officials confirmed Tuesday the state would not be paying speaking fees for the event, but they added a private donor has stepped up to pay the 70-year-old parolee for his appearance.
College officials say Bottom was invited to speak at the school by Dr. Raphael Outland, of the department of counselor education. The school also said they do not support categorizing Bottom as a “political prisoner,” as event organizers originally described him, yet they respect the right of faculty members to call him such.
In a message Wednesday, President Macpherson wrote:
“Dear Brockport Community:
The safety and security of our community is always our top priority. To help mitigate any potential security concerns around the Jalil Muntaqim event, we are engaging with key partners to build a plan that prioritizes the safety of our students, faculty, staff and campus guests.
With that goal in mind, we have decided to move this event to a virtual format. Details for the virtual program will be shared when they are finalized.
This event has elicited strong feedback, divergent opinions, and has already spurred protests. We are grateful for the various agencies and partners who will be supporting the safety of our campus during the upcoming days and weeks.
We urge students, faculty, and staff to engage in meaningful conversations about this situation.
I appreciate your continued commitment to critical conversations and respectful dialogue.
SUNY Brockport officials have said this event is about exercising academic freedom, adding that they are committed to the expression of various viewpoints.
A statement from the Foundation for Individual Rights Education (FIRE) Thursday said:
“In cases like this where there is controversy tied to the speaker’s appearance, it is even more important for the event to occur in-person, as there should be room for robust debate and attention to tough questions. This is a classic example of a heckler’s veto — the university capitulating to detractors’ demands rather than defending expressive rights.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.