Social justice minor added at the U

Liala Helal

University student Ilana Lerman has found a class that will help her change the world.

The School of Social Work in the College of Human Ecology created a social justice minor this fall.

The minor focuses on theorizing about the many meanings of social justice – such as speaking out against unfair treatment of immigrant workers and fighting racism – and practicing those things, said Lisa Albrecht, the associate professor who created the program.

There are many meanings of social justice, said Albrecht, who is teaching Introduction to Social Justice.

“The minor helps students learn about various struggles for liberation and to learn how to create a contemporary social movement that will allow everybody to live on this planet in a healthy way,” she said.

When wealth is more evenly distributed, when there is no oppression based on skin color, and when women are not discriminated against, the world will be healthier, she said.

Social justice is one of the few areas of study that brings together numerous subjects, Lerman said.

“Being able to connect it with my other studies is really awesome,” she said.

It also allows students to act on what they’re learning in class and apply it to their local communities, Lerman said

“It makes what you’re learning about relevant,” she said.

Although many people think social justice involves only global issues, there are many local aspects of social justice, she said. On-campus issues include the General College closing and the University clerical workers who do not receive adequate pay or health insurance, Lerman said.

These issues affect everyone, she said, and learning about them at an academic level is important.

People should be concerned about social justice because it affects the world they are living in, Lerman said.

“If you’re not happy with it then you have to change it, nobody else is going to do it for you,” she said.

Albrecht said young people are becoming more socially active every day.

“There’s a greater and greater need for educating young people about social justice activism at this time,” she said.

Social justice is a growing national trend in universities because of the students, Albrecht said.

“I think more and more students are coming to understand that we might live in a democracy, but unless citizens start to advocate on our behalves, not every policy that passes is in our best interest,” she said.

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh has offered a social justice minor since 2001.

Donna Altepeter, a social justice instructor at the University of Wisconsin, said she thinks social justice has always been important.

“I think that perhaps universities have recognized its importance in terms of its place in curriculum, not just in people’s activities,” she said.

The fact that the minor is being instituted into universities speaks to the importance of it, she said.

Student Steve Mullaney, an officer for the Social Justice Advocacy Movement student group, said he hopes to take some social justice classes if they fit his schedule. He said he is passionate about the subject.

“I truly believe in my heart of hearts that everyone wants problems like poverty and racism and discrimination to be fixed,” he said.

People should care about social justice because it improves the human condition, he said.

“As cliché as it sounds, it’s not a destination, it’s a process,” he said.

The School of Social Work plans to create a social justice major.

Albrecht said she hopes students in the minor learn how to question critically, discover how to be an activist and work to transform the world, she said.

“Those are my dreams,” she said.