JJ's Departure Stems From Settlement, Evaluation
University to search for new mascot
Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 2, 2013 15:08
A settlement reached with two parents whose child was bitten by Jack Jr. last fall was a factor in the decision to remove the former mascot-in-training from campus.
The child sustained non-critical injuries after the incident. Georgetown’s Vice President and General Counsel Lisa Brown directed all requests for comment to the Office of Communications, and Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh confirmed that the couple reached a settlement with the university and that a lawsuit was never filed.
Although J.J. has not bitten anyone since the incident and student dog-walkers from the Jack Crew maintain that the dog is now fully trained, the university will still seek a new mascot.
“There were many factors that went into this decision and certainly J.J.’s interactions with different groups of people both on campus and off campus at events are absolutely factors that were considered,” university spokeswoman Stacy Kerr said.
Evaluation by university administrators, animal trainers, breeders and caretakers who have monitored J.J. since he arrived on campus in April 2012 also determined that the dog was better suited to a home environment than the role of mascot.
Chief Operating Officer for Advancement Paul O’Neill, who has been involved with J.J. since he arrived on campus, said that leaving Georgetown was in J.J.’s best interest, emphasizing that J.J. is more of a pet than a “work dog.” J.J. will stay on campus until the university finds a suitable home for him.
“Whether the dog was well-behaved or not wasn’t an issue,” O’Neill said. “It’s whether or not the dog was happy or thriving.”
When The Hoya broke news of J.J.’s departure this morning, it was not initially clear whether the university would continue to house a live mascot on campus — a tradition that was revived after a campaign led by Hoya Blue in 1999. In a press release posted this afternoon, the university clarified that J.J.’s departure would not signal the end of the tradition.
Liability concerns abounded when the university first agreed to bring a live bulldog to campus 14 years ago, according to Kathleen Long (COL ’99), who led Hoya Blue’s push for a live mascot at the time.
“We had to sit down with Residence Life and Student Activities to talk about how this would play out,” Long said. “What if there’s a kid on the floor who’s allergic? What if the dog bites someone? … The university had nightmares of seeing a bulldog wandering around hallways, going into dorm rooms uninvited. We had to make sure they understood that this dog was going to be cared for and kept away from students who didn’t want to be bothered by it.”
The concerns were addressed when Fr. Scott Pilarz, S.J., now president of Marquette University, agreed to care for the dog in his residence in New South, as Fr. Christopher Steck, S.J., does now.
Administrators are working with bulldog breeders Janice and Marcus Hochstetler, who donated J.J. last year, to find a new successor to Jack, who retired in March.
To ensure that the next bulldog will be comfortable as mascot, the university will choose a dog from a “really good line” and monitor its behavior closely, O’Neill said. He could not specify a timeline for the process.
Steck said he was disappointed with the university’s decision, in which he did not play a role.
“The university's decision is a surprise and disappointment to me. I genuinely believe that J.J. would thrive as the next university mascot,” Steck wrote in a statement.
Students, none of whom were consulted about the decision to remove J.J. from campus, have criticized its lack of transparency.
A “Bring Jack Back” Facebook event had 282 attendees as of press time, while a Change.org petition posted by the head of the Jack Crew, Neve Schadler (COL ’15), had 115 supporters. The Facebook event and petition, led by the Jack Crew and Hoya Blue with support from the Georgetown University Student Association, ask the university to consider students’ perspectives and ensure that a live mascot will continue to live on campus.
Schadler and campus leaders from Hoya Blue and GUSA spoke with administrators, including Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh and Vice President for Public Affairs Erik Smulson, in a conference call after the news broke Wednesday morning.
Though Schadler said she understands the university’s reasoning, she believes the decision was made in the wrong way.
“After speaking with some of the campus and university administration we completely understand the reason of why J.J. isn’t going to be the future mascot,” she said. “Moving a mascot off campus is a decision that needs to be made with students.”
Kerr disagreed with criticism of university transparency and said that Georgetown prioritized counsel from parties without an emotional attachment to the mascot.
“It was very, very important to us in making this decision in the course of many months, in evaluating this decision that we had objective opinions of experts and not people that were emotionally connected to the dog,” she said. “While [students’] perspectives were of course important as well, I think the responsible thing was for us to be consulting people who could tell us unbiased and non-emotionally connected what would be best for J.J.”