Syracuse University Social Justice Center
By Gabrielle Caracciolo – Syracuse, N.Y. (CitrusTV) – On Friday September 14, 2018, Syracuse University officially launched the Lender Center for Social Justice.
It was made possible by a five-million-dollar donation from alumnus Marvin and Helaine Lender. The center has been in the works for four years, according to co-director Professor Kendall Phillips.
“I think the real heart of the center is Helaine and Marvin Lender,” he said. “It really was their vision of wanting a center that could help steer the world in a more just direction that has driven everything we’ve done. They are not the kind of people who just drop money and walk away. They really are partners in wanting to help Syracuse University become a leader in the question of making the world a better place.”
The center, which is housed in the School of Education, is focused around three core values, according to Phillips. The center aims to be interdisciplinary, proactive and innovative in its work towards
“We want to be interdisciplinary,” Phillips said. “We don’t want to think of social justice as just an education issue or just a politics issue or just a rhetoric issue, or just a media issue. We want to create a space where people from a variety of disciplines can come together to ask questions about how do we do good in social justice.”
“We want to be proactive,” he said. “We don’t want to be a center that sees a bad thing happen and we react and a bad thing happen and we react. We really want to be ahead of problems.”
“We want to be innovative, we want to bring together a variety of faculty and students and experts to spend a good amount of time thinking about an issue and say can we think of it in a new way that gives new approaches to old problems,” Phillips said.
The center will mainly work to accomplish these goals through fellowship teams consisting of both students and faculty. Each year a faculty member will be selected by the center who will decide on a social justice issue to research.
Student fellows from a variety of colleges within SU will then be chosen to work alongside the faculty researching the issue for two years.These teams will focus on both local and global issues, according to Phillips.
“We believe that every social justice issue is a local problem and a global problem at the same time,” Phillips said.
Social justice issues on the SU campus came to the forefront of student conversations and protests last spring when controversial videos of Engineering Fraternity Theta Tau surfaced online.
These videos led the to the start of the Recognize US movement on campus that has made demands for social justice reform on campus. However, the creation of the center is unrelated to the current movement and controversy on campus, according to Phillips.
“We are not a response to Theta Tau or any other set of issues,” he said. “And there was anxiety about timing of our launch being seen by some as ‘oh this is a Band-Aid to say oh we have a social justice center that takes care of everything that has happened on campus.’ This conversation has been going on for at least four years.”
For more information on how to get involved with the center, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.