Social Justice Week 2015

The second Social Justice Week to raise awareness of issues such as gender inequality, racism, religious intolerance and media bias; and the roles of education and activism in the struggle for social starts this week.

“It should be social justice week every week but a couple years ago we started this initiative where we try to shine the spotlight on social justice issues,” said associate professor of Spanish Luis Saenz de Viguera Erkiaga, the director of Merrimack College’s Social Justice Program.

Social Justice Week is scheduled to run March 23-27 and continue with programming April 7-8.

Social justice can be understood in many ways, from religious to social and political perspectives, such as Christian Social Thought, Marxism, Critical Race Theory and feminism, Erkiaga said.

Socially, it’s concerned with whether equality and fairness are being implemented or denied at the local, national and global lever; or, whether, on the contrary, societies live under systems of oppression and injustice.

Social Justice Week was implemented two years ago but there were scheduling conflicts last year so Community Engagement wrapped the week into its own programs to keep the torch burning, Erkiaga said.

The week is meant to help the Merrimack community talk about issues of inequality that affect people on campus and our wider community.

Speaking for himself instead of the whole organizing committee, Erkiaga said his goal is for members of the Merrimack community to ask themselves what social justice means to them, think about the role social justice plays in their lives, ask themselves how committed they are to social justice and how committed they are to ensuring social justice outside of campus.

“Anyone who participates in Social Justice Week is helping to define what social justice is for the community that we are building,” Erkiaga said.

Assistant professor of criminology Brittnie Aiello said social justice includes the legal system that includes policies, law enforcement, courts and prison systems.

She helped organize a panel discussion on drug law reform and harm reduction scheduled to be held in Cascia Hall Tuesday at 4 p.m. The featured speakers include state Rep. Tom Sannicandro, D-Ashland, and Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, who serve on the Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus; and Mary Wheeler, a street outreach worker from Lynn.

“It’s been a lot of fun planning it and I hope as many students and faculty as possible get involved,” Aiello said.

She spends time in class talking about social justice issues and is hoping her students attend various events to learn different perspectives.

“I’ll be thrilled if my students come to these events then talk about them in class,” Aiello said.

Assistant professor of communication Raechel Tiffe said she’s hoping the week inspires the college community to nurture a culture of activism and collective organizing to bring about a positive change in the world.

“Ideally, these events will not only encourage conversation about the reality of oppression and injustice, but also dialogue on ways to combat it,” Tiffe said.

Adjunct professor Betsy Salerno, of the Women’s and Gender Studies said she’s hoping the week provides a platform to support those members of the college community who feel they aren’t invited to the table or their voices don’t matter.

“Through awareness, conversation and activism, let’s create a theater in the round so that the proverbial ‘fourth wall’ is removed and we are all sharing the same space in an atmosphere of direct engagement,” Salerno said.

For a full listing of events visit the Social Justice Week schedule online >>


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