A college described this morning by Michael Smerconish as so small you’ve probably never heard of it has angered police officers and regular citizens alike by agreeing to broadcast a prison recording from convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal as a graduation address.

“It is beyond belief that an educational institution would even consider such an act of disrespect to the family of slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and the law enforcement community of Vermont,” said Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel, president of the state chiefs association.

“It obviously means nothing to the school administration and graduates that Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered Officer Faulkner in cold blood by shooting him five times,” Merkel said.

At first I thought this was a case of some misguided students exercising extremely poor judgement or seeking attention. And that’s still possible, since reports indicate that it was the students themselves who made the decision to extend the invitation to Jamal. But further reading indicates that school’s communications director, Samantha Kolber, went on Twitter to offer her own defense.

I’m all for free speech. (Heck, I make my living exercising it.) This, however, is beginning to sound like a conflation between this incident and recent debates over “controversial” college speakers. Take, for example, when Condi Rice wound up backing out of an engagement to speak at Rutgers. You are free to criticize the students for their opposition to Rice’s appearance as a case of shutting their ears against dissenting views, but we can also acknowledge that at least there were two opinions coming into conflict. This could be said of any contested speaking engagement where differences of opinions on policy are at play. But what is the opposing point of view being supported when it comes to Jamal? Is there actually someone at that college who thinks there’s a valid case to be made for executing police officers?

I know that Mumia Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence, and he’s even attracted some high profile defenders / apologists over the years including Whoopi Goldberg. They have, at times, invoked excuses ranging from a racist court system to an alternate killer scenario such as the running man. But in order for that to be true, that would have to be one clever running man, needing to be able to:

– Steal the gun registered to Jamal from the shoulder holster he was still wearing when taken into custody
– Shoot Officer Faulkner in the back with Jamal’s gun
– Shove Jamal back in between himself an Officer Faulkner long enough for Jamal to be shot by Faulkner’s service revolver
– Jump back around Jamal and fire four more shots with Jamal’s gun, executing Officer Faulkner
– Toss Jamal’s gun to the ground next to him while leaving no prints on it
– Escape before other police arrived with nobody getting a good look at him and somehow make the multiple witnesses on the scene think that Jamal had done all this
– Convince Jamal to yell in front of witnesses at the hospital that he had shot Officer Faulkner and that he hoped Officer Faulkner would die

If Jamal is innocent and all that actually happened, he has to be about the unluckiest guy on the face of the planet.

This is not a case of the college inviting a speech by a person that some of us disagree with. This is extending courtesy to a killer and hurling insults at the family and friends of a police officer slain in the line of duty. If this is what passes for free speech at America’s institutes of higher learning in 2014, we’re in more trouble than I’d already supposed.