North Carolina State University hosted a series of events and workshops this month that all centered on a “social justice” theme.
On January 23, North Carolina State University their annual “Social Justice January” event. The event, which is now in its fourth year, focused on advancing various “social justice” principles via a series of lectures and workshops.
Renee Wells, director of the GLBT Center at North Carolina State, said that attendees discussed the ways in which the various “social justice” focused centers on campus were failing students from marginalized backgrounds.
“I think there has been a real movement over the last few years to think about the ways in which as four centers, we’re not serving four different communities,” Wells said in a comment to the school’s student newspaper. “A lot of our students have multiple marginalized identities.”
“For instance, a person might be a queer woman of color, so they are being served by the GLBT Center, the Women’s Center, Multicultural Student Affairs and the African American Cultural Center,” she added, explaining her previous statement. “It’s recognizing that we have students in common and these students are facing multiple issues simultaneously.”
Wells is really getting at the concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality theory has been at the center of social justice politics on campus over the past several years. It refers to the idea that individuals can face discrimination for more than one aspect of their identity. For example, a black female can face discrimination on the basis of her race as well as on the basis of her gender.
“Recognizing common social justice issues that exist across communities provide us with the opportunity to focus on issues that we can bring all of our students together for,” Wells said, speaking again about intersectionality. “It’s a way for students to build a larger sense of community, look at how they can be working collaboratively to address the issue, and build strength and have more impact with a larger community advocating for something.”
Jamila Lyiscott, a community organizer, poet and visiting assistant professor of social justice education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, gave a lecture at this year’s “Social Justice January” about “white privilege” in the classroom.
“There’s a principle that I live by and it has to do with something called the circle of influence and the circle of concern,” Lyiscott said in a comment to the school’s student newspaper. “Our circle of concern consists of many things when it comes to social justice, when it comes to changing things within our institutional contexts, there might be so many things at NC State that you feel concerned about, that you want to change.”
“Social justice” workshops have become quite commonplace on university campuses. Conservative students around the country, however, have yet to see university-sponsored programming that promotes their beliefs and values.