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.