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Students Learn About Forming Social Justice Movements on Campus

Students on NJTVMonmouth University students met with other students at Rutgers University to form a state-wide social change group called The College and University Social Justice Coalition. 

Eighteen Monmouth University students attended the event, which took place on March 30 and brought together 60 students from around the state. The coalition, which is sponsored by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ), hopes to empower students from across the state to advance their social justice community goals, and will provide support, training, and networking opportunities, as stated in a University press release.

“I think this event was a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn concrete skills in social justice work from those working in the field,” said Johanna Foster, Ph.D., Director of the Sociology Program and an associate professor of sociology. “So many of our students are concerned about social inequality and want careers where they feel they are making a change in the world.” 

At the event, which was featured on NJTV News, professional social justice workers from the NJISJ introduced key concepts and skills in community organizing, event planning, social media, and research and report writing for social justice.

“I think the event was an amazing example of the kind of power and change people can create by coming together to support a cause,” said Tyler Castro, a junior psychology student with a minor in race and ethnic studies. “The strong display of intersectionality really showed how much we all cared for one another and our issues, even though we were all from different groups and have had very different experiences.” 

According to Foster, the event was the first in a series of events which will offer practical training to help students make social change. The training is also intended to help students network with like-minded student activists so they can work together on issues that matter to them. 

“I learned a lot about how to mobilize and organize a social justice movement,” said Christabel Tulashie, a senior political science student who attended the event. “It was very informative, because I’ve been trying to start a social justice movement myself; however, I’ve been struggling. Essentially, this event made me learn my mistakes and showed me a better way of starting a movement.” 

Students on NJTV 2According to the University’s press release, attendees included students from the following on campus groups: the African American Student Union (AASU); the National Council of Negro Women; the Youth Activists Group; the Gender Studies Club; Sexuality, Pride, Education, Community, Truth, and Unity at Monmouth (SPECTRUM); and the Sociology Club, among others.

“The event was a partnership with the sociology program, and students were selected by sociology program faculty and their faculty allies,” Foster said. “In particular, students who were identified as part of social justice clubs on campus were invited to attend, as were those enrolled in courses where the study of social inequality takes center stage. We also reached out to all students who are majoring in fields where we know there is a strong disciplinary commitment to solving social problems.”  

“I participated because I’ve always been vocal about my beliefs,” said Tulashie, who was recommended to the event by Foster. “I believe in equal rights for everyone and giving a voice to the voiceless.” 

“This is such an amazing opportunity for our student leaders to get the kind of training that will elevate their power on campus and in their communities in a time when we are seeing young people rise up all across the nation to demand a more just, equitable and compassionate world,” Foster continued. “There is no denying that there is a new activated generation of freedom fighters coming up, and there are MU students who are on the front lines of that!  I am so proud to see the MU Social Justice Team as a founding partner in the NJSIJ College and University Coalition.”

“There was a really strong Monmouth presence at the NJISJ meeting, which makes me think that we can accomplish real change at our institution if we all support each other and our ideas,” said Castro. “I think positive changes are going to start soon.”

The event was also supported by prominent New Jersey social justice leaders, including representatives from the NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Anti-Poverty Network, the New Jersey Policy Perspective, Youth Advocates Programs, and the American Civil Liberties Union – NJ. 

By the end of the day, University students had formed a Social Justice Innovation Team which, according to Foster, who will be the faculty advisor for the Monmouth team, will identify the issues of greatest concern for students and collaborate with other teams across the state to develop strategies for change. 

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University