Social Justice minor in the works for fall 2020 semester
Tamonda Griffiths—News Writer
By the 2020 fall semester, professor and Graduate Program Coordinator of Sociology Jessica Kenty-Drane said she hopes to see a minor in social justice officially offered at the university.
“As I chase down the last signatures,” said Kenty-Drane, “I’m hoping, by the end of this semester, I will send it to the [Undergraduate Curriculmn Forum] [and] it’ll be on their agenda for the fall.”
About two years ago, Kenty-Drane said she and the former Dean of Arts and Sciences had discussed integrating President Joe Bertolino’s strategic plan of social justice into the curriculum.
“We thought the minor looked pretty viable,” said Kenty-Drane.
The creation of the minor, she said, was a large undertaking because she wanted to be inclusive to all majors.
“Some of the majors can’t include that many,” she said, “because they are restricted to the major – the coursework that we would kind of fit.”
Although those departments may not be represented within the over 100 course offerings of the potential minor, Kenty-Drane said that does not mean those majors are not thinking about equity issues as well.
The definition of social justice from which KentyDrane said she used as guidance comes from the sociology graduate studies objective.
“‘Social justice is a social action promoting a just society, where equality and access to liberty, rights and opportunities are essential and where the life and well-being of those most disadvantaged in society are prioritized,’” said Kenty-Drane.
The social justice minor, Kenty-Drane said, would explore how to achieve that in society and allow students to reflect on what social justice means to them in terms of societal norms, cultural movements or politics.
Political Science Department Chairperson Kevin Buterbaugh said the decision for the political science department to oversee the minor was “an internal discussion” amongst the faculty.
“Sociology had some courses that they thought would fit, and after talking with faculty members,” said Buterbaugh, “they said, ‘Well maybe a student might think it’s about social justice, but there’s no clear, like, a section of the course or course objective,’ and so several faculty said they did not want their class a part of it because of potential false advertising-type issues, but largely it was an internal discussing: does it really fit, are we going to do the objectives, will they be clear to students that is part of social justice, and how and why – things like that.”
Defining social justice is not easy, Buterbaugh said.
“Generally speaking,” said Buterbaugh, “my perspective – and this obviously just mine – would be that each individual is treated equally under the law, each individual has the same opportunities to success in life. Along with those obviously means that you can’t have discrimination against people on racial, sexual, whatever kinds of lines.”
In order to create that type of equality, Buterbaugh said it is important for students to understand “the mechanisms of politics.”
“If you don’t know how American government operates,” said Buterbaugh, “how are you going to be able to use politics to get social justice?”