Center for Work and Life Seeks to Incorporate Social Justice
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 11:11
As we continue to push for the incorporation of social justice into the academic curriculum here at Smith, we must also look for ways to complement and continue this education outside of the curriculum. In addition to the many student organizations focusing on social justice and equality, several centers on campus have dedicated themselves to this cause as well.
The Center for Work and Life (CWL) sponsors many events that tie in closely to issues of social inequality and leadership, including their “Women’s Narratives” project, where participating juniors and seniors attend a retreat, during which they focus on their complex personal stories and learn about the vulnerabilities of their peers. The Center for Work and Life has also recently featured discussions on privilege, as well as strategies for speaking out about activism. Next semester, in collaboration with Mount Holyoke College and The Op-Ed Project, the CWL will sponsor a workshop geared toward helping female and other under-represented voices break through to the Op-Ed pages. CWL director, Jess Bacal, describes this year’s theme of the center as “speaking up”: “we started on a very individual level, but late October and November workshops have been on themes like speaking up as an activist, speaking about privilege, about religion,” in an effort to help students increase their “confidence in communicating about issues that are often emotionally charged.”
The Sophia Smith Collection is an incredible resource for students looking for inspiration or guidance as they work toward social justice both in their academic research and experiences outside the classroom. With papers and oral histories from legendary women in the field, such as Loretta Ross (feminist and reproductive justice activist), Carmen Vásquez (defender of LGBTQ rights and AIDS activist) as well as organizations such as SisterSong (women of color working towards reproductive justice), the Sophia Smith Collection is truly a treasure trove for those pursuing goals of social justice. Furthermore, the SSC is working to raise the funds to bring Loretta Ross to campus as an activist-in-residence. At Smith, Ross would research, lecture and help to organize students.
These are just two of the multiple centers on campus seeking to incorporate social justice into all aspects of Smith life. The links that can be drawn between our academic and non-academic lives, between the past stories of struggle and training for future leaders are essential to developing a well-rounded understanding of social justice. As Bacal said, “the role [of the Center for Work and Life, in addition to other campus programs] is to listen to students’ interests and goals, and then to collaboratively develop programs that will help them thrive in and out of the classroom.” The effort toward fostering a campus culture where issues of social justice are examined and debated by everyone in the Smith community depends on the participation of individuals in extracurricular as well as academic programs such as these.