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University reviewing plans for Social Justice Center

By Nashrah Rahman
On May 1, 2012

The University's senior administration is reviewing a proposal to create a Social Justice Center, a physical office space for Brandeis students involved with social justice activism.
"The center is really about making a visible community of Brandeis social justice activists on and off campus," Kate Alexander '12, who drafted the proposal with the help of Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams, said in an interview with the Justice.

The proposal outlines four key ways in which the center will serve the University: increasing collaboration between on-campus club initiatives, connecting current Brandeis students with alumni, remembering Brandeis' history of social justice activism and recognizing past and ongoing contributions that have furthered social justice activism.

The proposal recommends that the Social Justice Center be located in the Carl J. Ruth Shapiro Campus Center. "If we are going to say social justice is a founding principle of our University, that alone merits it a space in the center of campus and it won't be as effective if it is anywhere else," Alexander said.

Alexander said that she anticipates seeing some pushback to the proposal because it suggests converting conference rooms located on the third floor to office space. These conference rooms are currently utilized by clubs for meeting and by students as study spaces.

"The great thing about Brandeis is that we have this really great social justice history that should be accessible to all students and it shouldn't be that you can get out of this University without asking questions about it or at least being vaguely aware. But right now that's very much a possibility," Alexander said.

Alexander defined social justice as "recognizing the need of a community beyond yourself and giving back to it without the expectation that you're going to receive anything from your actions."

According to the University's student organizations Web page, some student clubs affiliated with activism include Students for Environmental Action, STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition and Student Global AIDS Campaign.

The University already has an Activist Resource Center (ARC), which "seeks to promote positive social, cultural, political, and economic change by providing resources to student activists," according to its Web site. In an interview with the Justice, Adams said that the Social Justice Center is "a little further developed concept than [the ARC] was" because the ARC was a "floating office" that did not have an official location.

A physical center is "really key," according to Alexander. She added that "online communications are really difficult to tap into when you're just starting."

Student Union President Herbie Rosen '12 said in an interview with the Justice that he supported the proposal. He said that the Social Justice Center has the potential to serve as "a great resource" for student activist groups to coordinate.

"It's a really good proposal, has a strong package to it, there is no resistance toward it from any angle at this point, meaning from students and administrators ... it's a really good beginning so I can only anticipate that it'll have a good founding," Adams said.


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