- Gabrielle Hendricks
Social Justice and Diversity Go Hand in Hand
On Feb. 22 and 23, the 2022 Social Justice Teach-In addressed the theme of dealing with difference, regarding the Disability Rights Movement. The event will provide Mount St. Mary’s faculty and students with insight on the inequalities surrounding disability and how to navigate a world of difference.
The SJTI at the Mount was started by Dr. Rosie Bolen in 2016. Bolen is the director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training and Development at the Mount. The first teach-in she held addressed police shootings. She wanted to provide a space for students and faculty to discuss and process their feelings surrounding racial inequality.
The teach-ins have the purpose of addressing a range of social justice issues, such as racism, women’s rights and disability awareness. Bolen also emphasized the importance of social justice being taught in all spheres of academia. Bolen said, “Social justice is woven through all academic disciplines and whatever your discipline is, you can find a connection to a social justice topic.”
These learning experiences are meant to broaden the range of social justice outside sociology, criminal justice and other classic disciplines dealing with the topic. Social justice affects everyone and has both external and internal (on campus) influences. Bolen explained that professors present the individual topics in their classes to other faculty members and students. Some teach-ins have even been open to the public and presented in Knott Auditorium in the past.
Even though the teach-in this year are smaller, Bolen said, “I’m excited about the theme because we haven’t explicitly addressed disability as a theme. The injustices surrounding disability are not often recognized in society, so seeing the Mount take interest is exciting.”
Dr. John Trammell, chair of Sociology, Criminal Justice, and Human Services is leading this year’s SJTI. Trammell was excited about this year’s teach-in because as a sociologist, social justice is built into the courses he teaches. For the teach-in he recruited faculty and has provided workshops, online activities, webinars and podcasts. Just like Bolen, Trammell wants to get professors involved in disciplines who may not think social justice is needed. Trammell used math as example by saying, “One might think that a math class is not a place where you would talk about inequality or structural forces but actually, math has been used to keep certain structures in place for hundreds of years.”
Trammell’s outlook on the importance of teaching social justice to all is needed at the Mount. It is important for a college with an immense amount of diversity to have social awareness from faculty and students. Trammell also pointed out the fact that social justice is consistent with the catholic tradition of valuing all humans with dignity. Trammell said all students and faculty are encouraged to attend the teach-ins. Experiencing injustice is not necessary to attend or teach the topics but understanding and learning from those who have experienced injustice is what is most important.
Trammell wants the diversity on campus to be more celebrated, better understood and taught in coordination with the Mount’s mission of being in service to God and others. The Social Justice Teach-In is a beneficial event to not only the Mount community but those we encounter on and off campus. The struggles of others being validated is an important step towards a brighter, more inclusive future.