WASHINGTON -- A project aimed at teaching the public about the civil rights impact of Jackie Robinson could soon come to an end at George Washington University.
Richard Zamoff, an adjunct associate professor of sociology at GWU, has been the director of the "Jackie Robinson Project" for the last 22 years.
The project started after Zamoff wrote a grant proposal to the District of Columbia's Humanities Council to further study Robinson's impact following the 50th anniversary of his breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The humanities council awarded GWU's sociology department a grant for the project soon after that.
Since then, Zamoff and other people with expertise on Robinson, have traveled to schools, libraries and community organizations in ten states to inform the public of the baseball player's greatness.
"We've certainly had an impact far beyond the District of Columbia," he said. "Nationally, and to some degree, even internationally."
But, late this summer, Zamoff received what he called surprising news from GWU administrators. He learned the Jackie Robinson Project was in jeopardy.
"We were notified that the project is under review," he said.
Eventually, GWU officials informed Zamoff that GWU would phase out project at the end of the academic year.
He called the decision mystifying.
"(Administrators) had never come to any of our programs," he said. "They never read any of our publications."
Kimberly Gross, the Interim Associate Dean for Programs and Operations at GWU, released the following statement to WUSA9 about the decision to phase out the Jackie Robinson program:
"The university appreciates the groundbreaking role that Jackie Robinson played both on and off the field, as well as the impact of race on sports and American culture. Due to significant concerns regarding the Jackie Robinson Project's management and funding, we decided to conclude the project at the end of this academic year. We do plan to continue to educate students on the importance of Jackie Robinson's legacy through a course on Jackie Robinson and an on-campus student society."
However, Zamoff says GWU's claim is unfounded.
He specifically took issue with the university's opinion on the project's funding.
"There's no question in my mind that we are very very viable financially," Zamoff said.
He said the Jackie Robinson Project is financially self-sustaining and that it runs off contributions made by donors, not money provided by GWU. Zamoff said he could not understand how the project, in its current state, could be of any harm to the university.
"The harm would be to the thousands of students around the country who wouldn't be able to take advantage of what the project has to offer," he said.
Zamoff said the project's funding has been frozen by GWU. In the meantime, it has received letters from writers, scholars and schools across the country ever since the announcement was made that it would be phased out.
Five-hundred GWU students have also signed a petition to keep the project alive.
Zamoff said he appreciates their efforts.
"I'm optimistic that we will eventually prevail," he said.