Editorial Board

Administration continues lack of transparency trend with planned termination of Cold Case Justice Initiative

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Syracuse University administration abruptly announces the termination of Cold Case Justice Initiative.

Syracuse University’s planned termination of the Cold Case Justice Initiative is another instance of the administration failing to properly communicate potential closings of university institutions, including the Advocacy Center.

Like the Advocacy Center, which provided resources to individuals seeking help for sexual assault before its abrupt closing in May 2014, the Cold Case Justice Initiative is an important SU institution that provides a specialized social service. The CCJI has gained national recognition for its work in identifying and advocating for victims of unsolved racist crimes.

The professors who head the initiative deserve a more thorough and honest explanation from the administration as to why the university and the College of Law — which houses the program — want to see it dissolved. These professors deserve an explanation not only because their initiative has garnered such success and prominence, but because the administration should be more committed to having discussions with stakeholders in programs they plan to cut.

SU is a private university, and it’s understandable that administrators don’t make any promises when it comes to shared governance. But to abruptly announce the termination of a heralded program without including the initiative’s heads into those pertinent conversations is a disservice to the work they have dedicated to CCJI.

The professors who head the initiative, Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald, said College of Law leaders have told them the program does not have the funding it needs to continue and they need to return to full-time teaching roles. But both professors said they are capable of funding the program without the university’s help, and also have the ability to teach courses while running the initiative.

If the university does have other valid reasons for terminating the initiative, the administration needs to make those reasons clear to those who have invested their time into the program. If lack of funding was indeed the real issue, then Johnson and McDonald should have been included in the conversations about the initiative, where they could have discussed possible methods to continue funding it.

While it is ultimately the administration’s call to terminate CJI, there have been repeated incidents of ineffective communication in recent years. Now, it’s time the SU administration to learn from its mistakes, take responsibility and improve its track record.


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