University Politics

About 100 SU community members sign online petition supporting Cold Case Justice Initiative to continue

Renee Zhou | Staff Photographer

SU's College of Law, housed in Dineen Hall, has served as the home for the Cold Case Justice Initiative. An online petition is circulating to keep it open.

About 100 Syracuse University graduates students and faculty members have signed an online petition urging the university to keep the College of Law’s Cold Case Justice Initiative open after a report that the center will be terminated.

The center’s directors and professors of law, Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald, created the petition, which is addressed to the university administration. It calls for the center to remain in place and highlights the center’s program that works to identify and advocate for victims of unsolved racist crimes.

It also presses for an explanation and commitment to a supportive environment on the SU campus, stating that SU community members are directly influenced by an increasingly hostile environment toward immigrants and Muslims.

“Our students discover the similarities from the growing dangers today and the abuses of the past,” the petition states. “We ask the Syracuse University community for support in helping us continue to engage in this unique type of education in justice work. … We are positioned to make a difference for victims and their families, for students, and for racial justice in the law and society. We need your help to keep this promise.”

The Daily Orange reported last week that the center is facing elimination. SU officials justified the decision, saying that the center has run out of the funding to operate and both Johnson and McDonald will take on full-time teaching roles. But the directors have said that the center can remain open without the university’s funds and they are able to manage both teaching and running the center.

Both directors said they were not consulted about the center’s future and expressed disappointment in the current administration’s lukewarm support for the program, questioning whether it values issues pertaining to racial and social justice.

The center has in 2012 submitted to the federal government 196 suspicious deaths that were racially motivated in the United States that were not counted by FBI.

The situation sparked heated exchanges between the directors and Dean of College of Law Craig Boise in letters to the editor in The Daily Orange, where they disagreed over whether the center would be “terminated.”

Boise asserted that the funding to the center expired in June 2016 and the College of Law invested $3 million in the program expecting that additional funding would be provided, which was not the case. The directors, said the center has raised significant amounts of money through outside donors.

“This work on racial justice should remain part of the Syracuse University mission because there is no clearer vision for an institution of higher learning than a commitment to justice,” the petition states.

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