Wednesday, April 26, 2006
So... what else have I been up to?
This past semester, some folks at Fordham have started up a Social Justice Forum, which is entirely in line with Fordham's Mission statement, particularly where it says stuff like
Fordham recognizes the dignity and uniqueness of each person. A Fordham education at all levels is student-centered, and attentive to the development of the whole person. Such an education is based on close collaboration among students, faculty and staff.The idea of the Social Justice Forum was that it would be a "Monthly Conversation of the Fordham Community on Contemporary Social Justice Issues." One would think that ideally this would mean the whole Fordham community (it being a Jesuit university, and thus universally committed to social justice, right? the 32nd congregation of the Jesuits in 1974-5 declared "the promotion of justice" as a Jesuit aim & mission. As Kolvenbach, the current head o' Jesuits said, about Jesuit universities, in 1990, "the students need close involvement with the poor and the marginal now, in order to learn about reality and become adults of solidarity in the future.")
Fordham is committed to research and education that assist in the alleviation of poverty, the promotion of justice, the protection of human rights and respect for the environment.
Well, it's become what you'd expect -- the same folks, each month, preaching to the choir, mostly undergrads, a few faculty members, a couple grad students (including yours truly), blah blah blah. And of course we all agree on everything (for the most part). We're all so fucking progressive. Nothing changes.
After a semester of this, I wrote to one of the faculty on the steering committee,
I wanted to drop you a line to ask about the Social Justice Forum andAnyway, the faculty member wrote back, inviting me to be on the steering committee, but also saying that these issues should probably be discussed in a face-to-face meeting (there are some sensitive areas, as you may gather) rather than over email. So I wrote her back, saying I'd love to talk face-to-face, but that I wasn't sure I had the time to join the steering committee, but that as incoming VP of the Graduate Student Association, I wanted to bring graduate students into this conversation.
its mission, because I've been thinking about it a lot lately.
Essentially, I'm not really sure what it's trying to do, even though
I've been to all of the fora this semester. Now this is fair, given
that the Forum is still young, but I still have some concerns --
namely, I don't feel that it is succeeding in being a 'conversation
with the Fordham community'. It seems to be the same small chunk of
the community -- mostly undergrad, few faculty or grad students, and
certainly no admin/service folks.
It seems as if a Social Justice Forum could have 3 purposes, each of
which seem to be important:
(1) Provide a forum for the *whole* community to address issues of
social justice. Given that the university's mission statement commits
it to caring about such things, everyone in the Fordham community
should be interested in that. However, this would mean deliberately
assembling panels/speakers that represented opposing/diverging
viewpoints. Even keeping within the frame of social justice, this is
entirely possible -- two people might argue that the reduction of
poverty is desirable and even possible, while having two very
different ways of getting there. This doesn't mean selling out on
social justice, but on genuinely trying to find the truth wherever it
may lie, and also undersatnding our opponents' positions as charitably
as possible -- good Ignatian principles.
(2) Provide a forum for progressive (lefty) members of the Fordham
community to learn more about causes they care out. This would mean
bringing in panelists to teach us more about different issues, and
provide resources for further action. (An action-oriented panel)
(3) Provide a safe space for members of the Fordham community who feel
alienated/ estranged from the broader Fordham community, or the
policies/attitudes of the administration. This safe space would enable
them to speak out in an atmosphere of trust & support. (This seemed to
be the feel of the post-vagina monologues forum; it was *definitely*
valuable, but not quite the same as #2, I don't think)
Each of these three seems to me to be a valuable mission for a Fordham
group/forum. However, I don't think that they're compatible with each
other. (1) seems to be the most open to the whole community, and to
serve the most toward bringing the Fordham community together. That
said, it wouldn't necessarily always create a 'safe' space -- things
could get uncomfortable, and to have a really high/good level of
discussion would require a fair amount of courage. (otherwise,
everyone simply recites platitudes about how nice it is that we're so
What do you make of this? I'm just speaking as a graduate student
who likes seeing these conversations take place, but who wants to see
them get just a little farther...
So we'll see how this goes. Oh yes, and meanwhile I'm also going to look into why the Financial Aid office here is so lame. And what's up with Student Affairs in a legal case. And nonsense like that. And write a dissertation.
Really, the moral of the story is.... if you want something done, do it yourself. And if you don't like how something's done.... you might just have to be willing to join its bloody steering committee. Argh.
jane 11:47 PM [+]