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Students Picked Mumia as Grad Speaker to "Think Radically and Critically"

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    Mumia Abu-Jamal Chosen as Commencement Speaker for Vermont College

    A Vermont College is at the center of controversy after its graduating class chose prisoner and former deathrow inmante Mumia Abu-Jamal as their commencement speaker. NBC10's Keith Jones has the story. (Published Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014)

    A one-time death row inmate now serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer is due to speak Sunday at a graduation from Vermont's Goddard College, his alma mater.

    Mumia Abu-Jamal will speak by video to 20 students receiving bachelor degrees from the Plainfield school where Abu-Jamal earned a degree in 1996.

    Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, was originally sentenced to death for killing white police Officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981, but he was resentenced to life in 2012.

    His claims that he's been victimized by a racist justice system have attracted international support. A radio show, documentaries and books have helped publicize his case. Goddard College describes him as "an award winning journalist who chronicles the human condition.''

    But the decision to allow Abu-Jamal to speak angered police and corrections officials in Vermont and Pennsylvania. The Vermont Troopers Association said it showed a disregard for the victim's family at a time when the nation is seeking solutions to gun violence.

    Goddard, a low-residency school where students, staff and faculty spend eight days on campus twice a year, holds 20 commencement ceremonies every year, so students in each degree program can individualize their graduations and choose their speaker.

    The school, which has about 600 students between the ages of 18 and 18, says the graduates chose Abu-Jamal as a way to "engage and think radically and critically.''

    Goddard students design their own curriculums with faculty advisers and do not take tests or receive grades.

    Faulker's widow is outraged after the selection of Mumia.

    "Shame on them," Maureen Faulkner said.