Everyday Practices of Social Justice: Examples and Suggestions for Administrators and Practitioners in Higher Education

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Gordon, Sarah
Elmore-Sanders, Precious
Gordon, Delton
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Given that there is a general need for college students to learn about social justice and equity issues, and since college is a developmentally meaningful time for students, it is important for colleges and universities to adopt practices and provide opportunities that address power and inequality issues. This paper provides examples of social justice programs and practices in four areas (administrative, academic, co-curricular, and assessment) at a mid-size Midwestern institution, discusses how these practices are important and valuable to challenging power, and how they can be replicated or adapted at other institutions. Examples of everyday administrative programs/practices include creating a diversity/inclusion statement, programs sponsored by university administrators, and dedicating staff to support and advocate for equity and inclusion. Examples of everyday academic programs/practices include incorporating courses that focus on social justice issues into the general academic curriculum, training instructors on teaching and/or facilitating discussions about social justice issues, and creating centers on campus that can be the “academic home” for academic programs and research that focus on social justice issues. Examples of everyday co-curricular programs/practices include creating both reactive (in response to a current event or issue) and proactive/continuing (focusing on social justice issues in general throughout the year) programming and including students in the planning and execution of those programs. Examples of everyday assessment practices include multiple methods of collecting data that allow for a holistic “picture” of what students are learning with regard to social justice issues during their time in college. This paper also discusses how these programs and practices are important for encouraging awareness and challenging power and provides important lessons learned from social justice work in higher education.