Social Justice Initiative
Photo: Marcella David
Columbia has a long-standing commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and we continue this effort with new conversations within our community regarding the many ways for the college to address its own systems and practices, which have perpetuated inequitable access to resources and opportunities for marginalized groups within our institution. This work was elevated in the fall of 2020 when the college introduced the Antiracism Transformation Team (ArTT).
The college-wide Social Justice Initiative (SJI) launched in 2021 and is designed to expose and address underlying disparities within the college’s institutional framework. The Social Justice Initiative (SJI), housed in the Office of the Provost, presents the college community with opportunities to investigate the role of social justice in creative practice and the role of creatives in advancing social change.
SJI gives the college an opportunity to practice advancing social justice at the institutional level by providing a context for ongoing intellectual college-wide discussions featuring guest speakers and lecturers. It highlights the work of faculty whose teaching and research positions social justice at the core of their creative practice. It also showcases student work through special projects and the development of new curricula. Through the Social Justice Initiative, we will leverage our position in the South Loop to push the conversation regarding social justice beyond our boundaries.
SJI helps us understand and address long-standing gaps in achievement between white students and students of color at the college and develop and fund new support structures and resources needed to eliminate these achievement gaps over time.
An important element of this initiative is our commitment to engage members of the community in our programming efforts. Our community will help shape the conversation and programs; your input in the planning will be as vital as your participation in the programs we develop together.
SJI Steering Committee
- Steven H. Corey, dean, LAS
- Eric Freedman, dean, SMA
- Rosita Sands, dean, SFPA
- Shawn Wax, vice president of development and alumni relations
New Programs 2021 - 2023
- Scholars Project – The Scholars Project was created to better support students who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) or first-generation college students. As part of the Social Justice Initiative, the Scholars Project’s mission is to promote equitable student success by connecting students to key resources, helping them to identify their strengths, and empowering students as they develop a sense of belonging at Columbia. The Scholars Project will work together with students from historically marginalized backgrounds in all aspects of their Columbia experience both in and out of the classroom. Learn more.
- Summer Social Justice and Creativity Institute 2023 – The idea of a Summer Social Justice Institute was introduced in 2022 as an intensive immersive experience where students could focus on their own academic discipline or creative practice while integrating and expanding their knowledge on a range of issues related to social justice. In Summer 2023, two Social Justice and Creativity Institute classes invite students to engage with diverse faculty and industry professionals around social justice and creative practice related to Chicago’s vibrant summer schedule. Generous scholarship funding is available for students who demonstrate financial need through a completed 2022-23 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Learn more about the Summer 2023 classes.
The Initiative is an ongoing project, with our initial focus placed on Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Social Change. There are three major elements to the programming that was held in Spring 2021:
A Social Justice Dialog: What does social justice mean? What does it mean to be an anti-racist? What does “diversity” mean today? Does “diversity” continue to be a relevant term? Using the CCC Engage platform, we will build opportunities for faculty, staff and students to connect on these and other topics. Collectively, we must share perspectives on current world and national events and consider how scholarly and creative practices can shape our world.
Perspectives Conversation: We will engage campus leaders in in-depth conversations around social justice and national events.
Creative Approaches to Social Justice: We are planning three programs to provide a unifying intellectual context for discernment and supports student work and development at creatives and leaders. Programs will be sponsored by each school, but open to the entire college.
- SMA: Anti-Racist Narratives and Practices: Stories of Art and Industry A panel discussion with industry leaders to explore the power of anti-racist narratives and the industry practices that govern these narratives.
- SFPA: The Power of the Creative Voice in Advancing Social Change A panel discussion to address the impact and powerful dynamic of addressing social justice through creative practice, and the role of educational institutions in preparing students as informed and skillful change agents within and across their respective industries and professions. The recording of the April 12 event, "Social Justice and Creative Practice: The Power of the Creative Voice in Advancing Social Change," with Columbia honorary degree recipient and renowned playwright, actor, director, activist, and educator Regina Taylor '11 can be viewed on the college's Vimeo site.
- LAS: Activism Now Building opportunities for students to link their passion for social change into their course assignments and extracurricular activities from across the college, culminating in a curated sampling of individual and collaborative creative works such as murals, videos, zines, music, and other forms of expression that reflect and explore the multifaceted nature of social justice.