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Social Justice Series returns to campus

October 1, 2009

The Social Justice Series returns from September through December this semester to UW-River Falls to educate students, staff and faculty on social justice issues facing society today.

March 2009 was the series’ first debut to the UWRF campus, and because of its success, it returns to campus this fall to highlight other issues that were not addressed in the first series.

“I think that it is very important for social issues to be highlighted on campus. There are so many things that students are unaware of that can benefit every aspect of their on-campus experience,” sophomore Katie Sheehan said.

The series’ mission statement states that, “… the purpose of the Social Justice Series is to educate and create awareness around social justice issues so that students, faculty, and staff might have the ability and knowledge to take social action.”

Some of the series’ goals include allowing students to understand the importance of social justice issues, be able to identify social justice issues, recognize their own areas of privilege or disadvantage, increase self-awareness and learn more about their own biases, fears and comfort levels. Also, they learn to identify resources necessary to take social action responsibly toward and with others, and the society as a whole.

“We, as the Social Justice Committee, feel strongly that the Social Justice Series brings an educational opportunity to our campus that may have not been available for students, faculty and staff before the Social Justice Series,” Social Justice Programmer Kristin Canan said.

Each month of the series highlights a different justice issue facing society today.  September’s focus was on education issues, highlighting issues in general social awareness. October focuses on gender issues and the deconstruction issues of gender identity. November educates on environment and waste issues, with a focus on creating a sustainable campus community and social equity, while December highlights disability issues and shows how to choose ability over disability, and to educate others on establishing an inclusive world.

“I think that it’s a good idea to have this series. If we are having these types of issues on campus it would be nice to have them brought up so people become more aware of them. How can we work together and improve our campus community if we are ignorant about [these issues] going on?” senior Jackie Howlett-Albrecht said.

The series started on Sept. 21 with a presentation on the “Lessons Learned from the Holocaust” by Todd Savage, a UWRF professor of psychology.

Presentations vary from speakers, non-profit organizations, movies, discussion circles and demonstrations to highlight different aspects of the overall series.

“Our events provide education about different social justice issues that we, as a society, are dealing with everyday, and all of our events provide unique, valuable information,” Canan said.

The Social Justice Series is tri-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Transgender Commission, the River Falls chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and the Courage Center. Each of the partners was designed to correlate with the different topics addressed throughout the series.

UWRF highlights the inclusiveness of its campus to the community, and the Social Justice Series wants to reinforce that inclusiveness through various programs.

“I think that as a place of higher learning, we need to be educating ourselves on injustices that are taking place around us. We are a campus that values ‘inclusiveness’ so with that value comes great responsibility,”
Leadership and Service Coordinator Amy Lloyd said.

Pursue Action is a retreat through the Social Justice Series taking place from Jan. 29-31 that gives students the opportunity to take social action in the River Falls community. It will be centered around community organization, and will call on students to follow up with a full spring semester commitment.

“I think that the [retreat] sounds like a really cool opportunity for students,” Sheehan said. “Not only do they get to meet and bond with their peers, but they get to be a part of something that benefits a cause that potentially can change society and its future for the better.”

After the retreat, students who participated will be working with the community partners from the Social Justice Series.

“Being able to take social action is a great opportunity for all students involved,” Canan said.