The Office of Multicultural Affairs is taking new steps to promote diversity on campus with a certificate program for undergraduate students called the Social Justice League (SJL).
The league aims to help students attain the needed tools in order to be able to live and work in diverse environments with sessions held throughout the semester. The goal is to improve outcomes in areas of social justice, diversity, inclusion and equity, in addition to helping students develop leadership skills and promote diversity and inclusiveness on campus.
“The importance of the league is to introduce students to this whole notion of diversity, social justice, social justice principles and aspects of power and privilege alongside the structure that exists in society,” Cheryl Chambers, associate dean for multicultural affairs, said. “We know all these things exist but then what do we do about it? The doing about it is very important because more often than not this requires community building and finding common ground in order to impact change and introduce solutions. The league provides a framework for all of that.”
The program includes six sessions on topics that include culture, privilege and oppression, and how they relate to diversity and social justice, social issues and concerns about diversity and inclusion on campus and coalition-building to positively impact our respective communities.
These sessions are also meant to act as a safe space for students to discuss personal experiences and promote dialogue by teaching respect and compassion.
“As a group, we aim to bring what we learn to others,” Mary Rose Romano, SJL member and undergraduate coordinator for off-campus living, said. “Our goal is to increase inclusion and to properly support and advocate for individuals of marginalized and misrepresented groups.”
If the program succeeds, the campus will offer a more welcoming home to all of its students, she added.
“It’s really important to identify the many different issues that our school community and society face,” Jessica Cortes, senior social welfare major and a member of SJL, said. “Being able to recognize and address these issues is important in order to make a change and a difference in our society.”
Each week a different aspect of diversity is discussed.
“We began with a discussion of assumptions and last week we talked about micro-aggression,” Romano said. “Each week’s session begins with a brief PowerPoint and then we lead the rest of the session collectively. We share what information and experiences we believe will help us to fully understand the topic of the day.”
In order to become a member and obtain a certificate, students must complete six two-hour sessions. Registration ended on Friday, Sept. 20.
“SJL has already affected my life because I have connected with people I otherwise never would have met,” Chelsea Villalba, a senior social welfare major and member of SJL, said. “Age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or past influence our experiences, but SJL allows us to be more than the ‘-isms’ we learn.”
Meeting times run every Friday, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., starting Sept. 27 through Nov. 1 in the Dean of Students Office Conference Room, Room 223 in the Student Activities Center.
Maya Brown contributed reporting.