By Ken Reed
Decisions made in academia are often hard to fathom but this one is especially perplexing.
According to a report in the Washington Post, George Washington University (GWU) is planning to end a project that shares the story of Jackie Robinson’s legacy with hundreds in classrooms, at academic conferences and with community groups every year.
The project isn’t costing the university a dime. It is fully funded with private donations and operated by volunteers. And, by virtually any measure, it has been a great success.
“It’s absolutely frustrating and mystifying,” says Richard Zamoff an adjunct professor of sociology at GWU who launched the Jackie Robinson Project with seed money from a local nonprofit.
According to Kimberly Gross, interim associate dean for programs and operations for GWU’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, GWU’s intent is to reallocate any remaining funds from the Jackie Robinson Project “in a way that continues to honor the Jackie Robinson legacy, such as dedicating the funding to the Africana Studies Program or to the Jackie and Rachel Robinson Society student organization.”
GWU’s decision has resulted in an outcry from students, donors and teachers who have signed a petition testifying to the impact of the project and asking school administrators to allow the project to continue. To date, 499 people have signed the petition.
Even without any more donations, the Jackie Robinson Project has funding to continue as currently run for three more years, according to Zamoff. Yet, inexplicably, GWU has frozen the project’s account.
“I don’t even understand why we have to make a petition,” says Justyn Needel, a student leader in the Jackie and Rachel Robinson Soceity student group.
“We’re not asking them for money . . . All we’re trying to do is help the community spread the positivity of Jackie Robinson’s message, and GWU is taking that away from the students and the people.”
Angelo Parodi, a fifth grade teacher at John Eaton Elementary School in Washington, loves the Jackie Robinson Project and what it has meant to his students over the past decade. He says his students’ eyes widen when hearing about the impact Jackie Robinson made on and off the field. Moreover, he believes his students’ understanding and appreciation for the power of the civil rights movement has deepened as a result of the project.
Why would GWU pull the plug on such a positive program? It has to be an ego-based reason because there certainly doesn’t appear to be any rational basis for the decision.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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