Social Justice Center opens
The Social Justice Center (SJC), formerly located in the basement of Hurd, is now prominent in students’ view in the basement of Umrath.
The SJC is a resource center that provides various students and student groups the tools and materials they need to put on programming related to social justice.
It has a numerous books, magazines, videos, and handouts that relate to or teach about issues like racism, homosexuality, socio-economic diversity, ableism, and body image.
The SJC also has a corresponding student group.
The SJC is staffed by a group of about 15 RAs, an RCD, an office manager and a graduate fellow
“Our goal is to really be a resource and ultimately a voice for students on campus who want to do something about any [social justice] issues on campus,” sophomore Aasli Nur, the office manager said. “We’re building on the programming from last year and taking a lot of steps toward getting more integrated in the community.”
Many of those involved with the Social Justice Center are excited about being located in a heavily trafficked area across from South 40 Dining.
“Last year, it was kind of like being invisible, being in Hurd,” Nicole Salowetz, the graduate fellow for the SJC, said. “I’ve been here maybe 15 minutes and I’ve already seen 50 or 60 people.”
A large number of RAs and CS40 Executives as well as passerby explored the SJC, which provided cookies from Diana’s Bakery, a local Mexican bakery, as well as candy from Japan.
“I want this to be a cool space where we’re going to show movies and documentaries related to social justice,” Jeff Grim, Director of the SJC and Residential College Director of Liggett-Koenig, said. “This has the potential to be a hub for student groups that want to co-program or utilize this space and resources.”
The Social Justice Center (SJC) is around 10 years old. The idea for the center originated from former Ruby-Umrath RCD Andy Wilson who felt a central point on campus where people interested in social justice advocacy can collaborate together, according to Grim.
The committee of volunteer RAs and other staff serve as resources and are available to answer questions on a mix of issues. “We’re working on ways we can collaborate with other student groups to create unique programs, but not to overprogram,” Grim said.
Past events sponsored by the Social Justice Center have included bus tours of St. Louis guided by Bob Hansman, roundtable discussions and social justice speech contests. The student employees of the SJC are also responsible for creating bulletin boards with information about one of the Center’s specialized areas (such as racism) each month. These are put up on each floor by an RA.
Potential programs for this year include co-sponsoring Bill Cosby with Chimes as part of the Assembly Series, a Tunnel of Oppression, coffee conversations and film screenings related to various issues of social justice.
The coffee and conversations events will differ from currently offered Coffee N Controversy by promoting discussion rather than debate. The SJC also invited WuSLam to do an open slam outside of their space after their open house.
“It’s an incredible initiative on the part of Residential Life,” Salowetz, a third year with the Law School and Social Work dual degree program, said. “I don’t know many campuses that have that direct link with the wider university supporting an initiative like this.”
One of the largest resources touted by staff members is a lending library where students can borrow movies and books. Binders with programming ideas for issues ranging from environmental racism and genderism to religious oppression and racism are also available.
“They seem to have a lot of resources that student groups and residential halls can use when having discussions or programs about social justice,” sophomore Mamatha Challa said. “I’m kind of curious to see how much that affects the campus as a whole and how much this space is used.“
The SJC will be open from Sundays to Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.