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Thinking about social justice

Published: February 8, 2013
Section: Editorials


We applaud the students, faculty and staff who coordinated this week’s ’Deis Impact festival to celebrate social justice. With events ranging from the arts, to business practices, to social media to investigative reporting, the community rallied to show the diversity of fields where social justice can impact the lives of others.

The question that Brandeis has faced during the past year is twofold: First, how does this community define social justice? And second, does Brandeis want social justice to be the defining characteristic that distinguishes it from its peers?

The answers to those questions are not just part of a strategic plan drafted by administrators. They must be part of a community dialogue that continues from year to year. In large part, they are a communication questions about how Brandeis seeks to market itself as an institution. Because if we are to become a school defined by social justice, surely there are ways to expand upon the festival held this week and our programs organized throughout the year.

Beginning with its long history of Waltham Group, this university has made significant progress and direct impacts in the Waltham community, including through tutoring and mentoring programs with students in local schools. Students participate in a multitude of activism causes and encourage their friends to organize community service projects.

But if social justice is to become the selling point, the marketing tool of Brandeis, it must become a more formalized part of the curriculum here. During our first year, for example, university writing seminars are one place where students could be introduced to learning about social justice and its relevance to Brandeis’ history. A community service requirement could be added to the list of school distribution requirements for graduation.

Because if Brandeis wants to be a school known for social justice, it must take the enthusiasm and energy from this past week and use it to engage students, alumni, faculty and trustees in a discussion about what social justice means, what we’ve done and what we can do.

And if we are dedicated to the principle and idea, launching that discussion across the entire campus, incorporating democratic methods at every turn, would be a reasonable place to start.