As your students spend their four years on campus, we hope that they will be increasingly aware of our University motto of Pro Humanitate (for humanity). As a component of Pro Humanitate – and in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday observance – we hope your students might begin to consider the idea of social justice, what it means to them, and how they want to think about social justice as they become adults.
“Social justice” has many different definitions. Wikipedia defines social justice this way: “Social justice refers to the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live. While ‘justice’ (especially corrective justice or distributive justice) classically referred to ensuring that individuals both fulfilled their duties, and received what they were ‘due’ based on interactions with other people, ‘social justice’ is generally used in a wider way with reference to a set of institutions which will enable people to lead a fulfilling life and be active and contributors to their community. The goal of social justice is generally the same as human development, and the relevant institutions are usually taken to include education, health care, social security, labour rights, as well as a broader system of public services, progressive taxation and regulation of markets, to ensure fair distribution of wealth, equality of opportunity, and no gross inequality of outcome.”
In addition to the facts, figures, and theories students learn in the classroom as part of the academic curriculum, students are also challenged in college to wrestle with big questions. Who am I? What is right (or wrong)? What are my responsibilities to my neighbors? How should I best live my life? In what do I believe?
If your students have not thought about social justice as “a set of institutions which will enable people to lead a fulfilling life and be active and contributors to their community,” encourage them to start thinking. What do I think about social justice? What is my role or responsibility in developing, maintaining, or safeguarding social justice? Should social justice be in the realm of politics? Religious institutions? Individual communities?
Your students may agree with your views or disagree. Their ideas may change and fluctuate with time or new information. But encourage your students to begin thinking now about social justice – as well as their other beliefs. Your students will one day lead our world, so the more engaged they are with issues about humanity, the better prepared they will be to lead it.