New Social Justice degree debated

Assorted faculty and staff herded into Library, Room L-109 for a meeting centered on a state proposal which would allow new classes for programs such as Chicano, African-American and LGBT studies to be implemented and would also be re-categorized under the umbrella of Social Justice Studies.

“It made sense to totally go towards this model,” said English and LGBT Studies instructor Jeffrey Mitchell-Matthews before going into a general overview of what they’ve accomplished so far.

New courses have been proposed in order to create African-American and Chicano Studies degrees according to one of several handouts given to participants. “We have enough courses on campus to launch these programs,” said Mitchell-Matthews.

Though there were multiple aspects to be discussed, participants didn’t get further than the topic of ethnic studies. Both English instructor Tess Caldwell and business instructor Theodora Adkins raised questions regarding terminology, each raising concern that putting everthing under one label might erase the identities of marginalized groups.

Several times, Rosa Armendáriz, who helped lead the discussion, tried to shift the conversation in a different direction but everytime, it would go back to whether or not social justice is inclusive of ethnic studies.

LMC Counselor Nina Ghellisi inquired about the implementation of Asian-American courses on campus. In response, Armenderiz said we have to “look at what we have on the books already.” If people want an ethnic studies department, it’s going to be hard work. “It’ll take a few years and by then we will have missed two generations of students.”

“We are so close to some of these pathways. The state is proposing a social justice which would allow these other programs to exist,” said Armendáriz.

Matthews explained the reason they are considering using this pre-approved model “is to have something to funnel students into these programs,” reiterating the point that it’s just an umbrella term for all these different programs.

Adkins retorted, “By calling it social justice, you’re erasing our history.”

English Instructor Dr. James Noel commented on the nature of the discussion saying it speaks more to the discrimination problem than to anything relative to equality or equity. “This conversation is socially unjust,” he said. “This whole coversation is problematic.”

Bearden explained that different areas intersect with others and that ethnic studies isn’t inclusive of LGBT or gender studies.

Matthews explained they’ve decided to go with this route because “it was fast and easy.” He acknowledged that there is a negative stigma attatched to the term social justice, but utimately, this is the best course of action. “We wanted a clear and doable pathway so we don’t have to wait. It’s a compromise that will allow things to happen,” he said, also confirming that the LGBT department is going forth with the state proposed model.

Adkins made her point clear saying she didn’t have a problem with there being a social justice course of study, she just didn’t approve of ethnic studies being considered a sub-category.

Political science instructor Dave Zimny agreed this was the best way to go about things saying “I believe in incrimental change.”

Bearden assured everyone “we’re tryng to create allies, not trying to take anyone’s identity.”

After going a bit over time, Armendáriz said though the discussion was far from over, she was glad everone was omfortable enough to voice their concerns. She said things are more effective when a group of people come together and try to make them happen.