Social Justice Month could be defined better


August Pelliccio – Features and Opinions Editor

Each November, this university holds a variety of events filed under, “Social Justice Month.” The tradition began as a just a week-long celebration, but in the last few years has taken over the whole month. The school is labeled as a social justice university, and while that may be true in many respects, not all events hosted in November directly reflect justice, rather, diversity in general.

In 2018, diversity across race, sexuality, gender and class should be a given. It is important for a public institution to be a community of varied cultures, but the term “justice” implies innovation, which is overkill in some cases.

Many of the events have an impact on guests, representing the way this university is trying to exhibit, promote and fight for justice. For example, David Hogg’s speech on Nov. 27 promoted social justice in a profound way. Hogg is a Parkland survivor, and co-founded the March for Our Lives movement against gun violence. Preventing gun violence is a social justice issue.

Diversity cupcakes are not a display of social justice. At best, it is a demonstration that diversity exists in our community, which should be expected in this culture and political climate.

Merriam-Webster defines justice as “the maintenance or administration of what is just, especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims.”

The social justice page on the university’s website describes the repeated cupcake decorating event, saying “We are all different without even realizing it. Let’s come together and celebrate these differences in a creative and tasty way!”

The concept is fun, but it has the same label of social justice as the Hogg speech, which is truly an informative and inspirational presentation about a controversial cause.

Another example of an important demonstration of social justice was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The Williams Institute found that as much as 78 percent of transgender people have faced physical or sexual violence in a school. To bring to light the transgender individuals who lost their lives to violence and suicide, at a public institution, is social justice.

Diversity painting is not a display of justice.

“This event will go to show students how diverse our population is,” the social justice page stated.

Like the cupcakes, this event does not strive to adjust conflicting claims, unless there are students who have not noticed the cultural richness and variance across this campus. It is not hard-hitting, so to speak.

Diversity painting, and diversity cupcakes alike, both belong on the calendar, but why not celebrate the community at all times of year? Why dedicate a month to promoting change and stirring up controversy, and use it to spread the word that diversity exists?

There are certain things that deserve special attention, especially when the audience is a public institution. A presentation highlighting the “disability wage gap,” is insightful, and eye-opening. Before Social Justice Month, I did not know that 81 percent of adults with developmental disabilities do not have a paid job in their community. That is a cause that can be worked for. People can fight to change that statistic. Inclusion in the workplace is a social justice issue.

Holiday cuisine is not a display of justice.

The same gripe exists here: a holiday fair serving up traditional foods associated with Hanukkah, Christmas and Three Kings Day does not exhibit a fight for justice.

I will stress again, the holiday fair, diversity painting event and diversity cupcake event do belong here, but maybe they should be categorized differently. Perhaps they should have been part of the 125th anniversary celebration, showing the difference in widespread acceptance as a public institution in this country over the last century.

As a social justice university, this institution could do just a little bit better filling space in the Social Justice Month lineup, or advertising the arguably more important and controversial exhibitions of justice that exist as part of the month-long celebration.

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