Educators for Social Justice is the most recent version of a University of Washington College of Education student organization that has been in existence for over 10 years–first as Students Promoting Diversity and then as Educators Promoting Diversity. Over time the groups momentum decreased until it was almost non-existent. In the fall of 2004, several College of Education graduate students took on the task of revitalizing the group and organizing it in a way that its membership, mission, and goals would be sustained year after year.
Why did we change our name from “Educators Promoting Diversity” to “Educators for Social Justice?” Or rather, how do we conceptualize the terms of “diversity” and “social justice” in education?
Educators for Social Justice is the most recent version of a College of Education student
organization that has been in existence for over 10 years – first as Students Promoting Diversity and then as Educators Promoting Diversity. But over time the student membership of Educators Promoting Diversity dwindled down until it was almost non-existent. In the fall of 2004, several College of Education graduate students took on the task of revitalizing the group and organizing it in a way that its membership, mission, and goals would be sustained year after year.
The primary reason we switched our name from Educators Promoting Diversity to Educators for Social Justice is that we feel promoting diversity does not clearly articulate our group’s objectives. Diversity is a value neutral concept. Diversity signifies quantity—it does not highlight a normative impulse. And, when a normative impulse is highlighted, it is usually in a manner that is inattentive to the ideological and systemic structural conditions that marginalize and oppress.
For instance, while the language of diversity is used by numerous educational institutions to claim engagement with social injustice (especially, but not limited to, racial inequality), the reality of most institutional policy is that engagement rarely extends beyond simply advocating increasing the number of under-represented populations. While we certainly advocate numerical diversity, our concerns are much deeper than numerical representation. We advocate engaging and eliminating systemic injustice. This means we must wrestle with ideology and think critically about social-relations. Promoting diversity is not a phrase that gets at this mission. Thus, we turned to a name that clearly advocates—the word “for”— and clearly advocates a value position—”social justice”.
2008-2009 School Year:
Recruitment and Retention
ESJ continued working with the Assistant Dean of Academic Programs on issues of climate and retention for students of color in the College of Education. Members and officers met with the Assistant Dean to discuss availability of funding for students of color and access to RA/TA opportunities. ESJ continued to push for transparency of funding opportunities.
Diversity Task Force and Common Book
ESJ members continued to serve as members on the Diversity Task Force.
Furthermore, ESJ helped with the selection of the College of Education’s Common Book, The Possessive Investment of Whiteness. Kathy Kimball, member of the Diversity Task Force and EDLPS Assistant Professor led a seminar in spring quarter on the Common Book.
Alternative Teacher Compensation Panel
ESJ co-sponsored a panel about merit pay organized by the Education and Social policy student group from the Evans school discussing how new State law to restructure teacher pay will pan out. Panelists included Jessie Hagopian, Seattle Public School teacher; Jeanne Harmon from the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession; and Jennifer Wallace from the Professional Educator Standards Board and ESHB 2261 committee member
Teacher Education Panel
In Spring quarter ESJ (and Evan’s School Education/Social Policy interest group) organized a panel titled “Teacher Education and Social Justice: Pathways and Preparation” discussing the role, challenges, and potential of teacher
education in addressing social injustice. Panelists included Cap Peck, UW Teacher Education Program; Greta Berquist, Teach for America; and Jenee Myers Twitchell, Advisor for the Education minor at UW and Founder of the Dream Project.
Kate Brayko Gence
For the 2005-2006 year, we focused on building a sense of community within the College of Education by hosting specific events and creating physical changes within Miller Hall.
College of Education Diversity Social
The Diversity Social was held on November 10th and brought together 40 graduate students for a night of good conversation and food at Araya’s Vegetarian Restaurant.
Diversity Book Talk
In collaboration with other campus units – Vince Schleitwiler, a graduate student from the English department and GO-MAP – we helped to host the Diversity Book Talk with Chinese-American author Peter Kwong on November 17th.
New Student Lounge
ESJ was instrumental in the creation of the new student lounge on the 2nd floor of Miller Hall.
Miller Hall Mural Project
The murals cover opposite ends of the hallway outside the offices of the College of Education. The murals were created by Anne Hayden Stevens, an artist and lecturer in the Department of Architecture and the School of Art, in collaboration with Educators for Social Justice.
During the 2004-2005 academic year our work culminated in a series of letters written to the College of Education Dean and faculty as well as to several faculty hiring committees as a means of raising awareness about our concerns. The “grievance” letter, addressed to the Dean and faculty, focused on concerns related to minority student representation, current advising and mentoring structures, and the overall climate and culture of the college and called for the administration and faculty to act in response to these concerns. Whereas the letters to the faculty hiring committees focused entirely on the need to further diversify the College of Education faculty by hiring more faculty of color, these letters have since activated deep discussion around these issues as well as sustained commitment and action from the College administration and faculty.