Social Justice should be more than an empty phrase

I’m thinking a lot about the role of the University in society lately, and long-term Social Justice infrastructure, etc.

Brandeis talks a good game about Social Justice, but really neither defines it well or empowers its students to foster it. Even the committed activist clubs on campus are stuck in a paradigm of community service, instinctive protest, or the vague idea of “raising awareness”. We can do so much more than that.

Brandeis Alumni are among the best in the field in terms of community organizing or social entrepreneurship. I know of 6 non-profit ventures founded in the past 3 years here on campus. Furthermore, in the field of Online Organizing and New Media / Social Network utilization, Brandeis grads are outstanding. There is a raw talent here that needs to be trained and untapped.

On a societal level, youth are being used by the political sphere are warm bodies or an extra pair of hands. All “real” experience in creating change either takes place in summer internships or after college. That is a shame.

I often speak of the idea that Brandeis is not even a University, but rather a two-stage experiment in social entrepreneurship that uses the legal and institutional structure of University to interface with society. In the first stage, the Jewish community opposed discriminatory quotas in higher education by creating a new top-flight academy that would reject quotas and use competition to force other universities to follow suit. That mission has been successful. The second stage is a work in progress.

Now that we’ve eliminated University quotas, the Brandeis experiment can move on to a broader goal: training and equipping the next generation of social entrepreneurs and change agents.

Why Brandeis? Brandeis has the history, credibility, and resources to make this vision of “an academy for Social Justice” possible. Infused with the spirit of Tikkun Olam, Brandeis has a mandate to take this mission seriously. The University setting allows for a sustained, true, and thorough process of educating young leaders in the principles of leadership, values, and social action.





6 responses to “Social Justice should be more than an empty phrase”

  1. Lev

    Glad to see your question wording was so unbiased Gideon.

  2. One of the statements I included on my Social Psych questionnaire was “It seems that progressive’ students on campus like to complain just for the sake of being activists about something.” This questionnaire was taken by 10 random people from among the 150 in the class.

    # responses : score – scale

    1 : 1 – disagree strongly
    0 : 2
    2 : 3
    3 : 4
    4 : 5 – agree strongly

  3. Tom

    This is a pretty important topic for me, this “ambiguity of social justice” thing. So much so I did a poll of the campus on that very topic. Whipped it up in Google Docs, sent it out over those weekly announcements. It wasn’t too official considering that of the 3500 or something students who could’ve taken it, only 70 did (and also two-thirds of the respondents were female). Still, the results were pretty cool. In particular, 63% percent of respondents considered social justice to be “a necessary objective”, while only 32% said it’s “so ambiguous it has no meaning,” with the final 4% saying “I don’t know”.

  4. It’s refreshing to see someone who believes in “social justice” admit that it’s frequently an ill-defined shibboleth. I’d like to see you explore what you consider the term to mean, especially in the context of the University. How should Brandeis embody social justice?

  5. Justin

    repairing the world in Hebrew

  6. TPD

    what is tikkun olam????