© Copyright 1995 Mona Weissmark

This proposal was submitted on November 12, 1995 to Dean Ronald Tallman,
College of Arts and Sciences, Roosevelt University. In 1999 Roosevelt University received a generous gift from the Mansfield Family Foundation to establish an Institute for Social Justice.


by Mona Sue Weissmark, Ph.D.



Most people care deeply about justice for themselves and others. Broadly viewed, justice or, more accurately, a keen sense of injustice and the urge to do something about it-- is a basic part of social life.Our sense of injustice involves real human feelings. Hate, envy, resentment, anger, vengeance, fear and all the other passions we feel when we are treated unfairly. Justice then is a matter of personal concern, not just a quality of anonymous institutions, systems, and governments.Indeed, by just appealing to our everyday experience we can confirm that. If we are treated unfairly by others, it affects us in profound ways. We are likely to suffer not only from the tangible harm done to us, but, also from the psychological injury of having been treated unfairly.Though different people and different societies may well have different conceptions of what is just and what is not the idea of injustice seems to be one. It seems to refer, at the very least, to the sense that "what is" and "what ought to be" is out of balance.We want to believe that we live in a world where people get what they deserve or, rather, deserve what they get. Unfortunately, we are regularly faced with incidents that seem to contradict this belief. Domestic violence, criminal acts, discrimination, war atrocities. Any evidence of undeserved suffering ignites our sense of injustice. People then will try to reestablish justice.Reestablishing justice is a feeling of putting the world back in balance. What is crucial to rebalancing an injustice is the "victims" and "victimizers" involvement in the process. Both parties--the victim and the victimizer-- must bring about reestablishing justice. If they fail to do so, the evidence suggests that feelings about the "other side" will be transmitted down the generations and may feed back into a system to perpetuate polarization.Polarization is not an abstract, hypothetical problem. We can see it today in America's race problem. President Clinton recently described the polarization between blacks and whites as "tearing at the heart of America." In blunt terms, the president chided both races for behavior the other thinks racist and unjust.Clinton urged both blacks and whites to take part in reestablishing justice. He advised blacks and whites to talk to each other about race relations and to understand the anxieties of each about the other as a gateway to racial harmony."White America must understand and acknowledge the roots of black pain that go back to slavery. On the other hand, blacks must understand and acknowledge the roots of white fear in America" (Presidential address at the University of Texas, October 16, 1995).The rift between blacks and whites is just one example of how previous injustices affect group relations. There are the Native Americans and Mexican-Americans. Other examples can be found in Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Middle East, as well as the Balkans. Each group with their list of historical wrongs and demands for justice.In summary, justice is more than a legal matter. From the point of view developed here, justice pertains to feelings of the person, and, therefore, of interpersonal relations; and, ultimately, of the community itself. The sense of justice is a special kind of feeling. It aims at restoring a kind of balance within the person, between persons, and for the community as a whole.

Justice is not so much a state either of persons or of communities, as a process and a discussion. It requires that the truth of the other be grasped. Justice, as President Clinton said, includes acknowledging diverse viewpoints. In short, justice presupposes the idea of diversity and mutual recognition, which in turn suggests an interpersonal, social activity.Hence, the name The Institute for Social Justice Studies.


The aim of the Institute for Social Justice Studies (ISJ) is to increase our understanding of justice in human relations. The Institute will be a consortium of projects and activities dedicated to theoretical and applied research. Its activities can best be categorized under four headings:

*Education and Training Program;
*Real-World Interventions;
*Theory Building; and
*Written and Audiovisual Materials for professionals, including the public.
Education and Training ProgramEducation and Training will be central to the Institute. The Institute will prepare students for applied research and provide administrative and educational activities related to justice-related studies. Our aim is to offer courses in which individuals can learn theory and practice skills. The program will offer a certificate in social justice studies.Consistent with Roosevelt's general mission, both course work and practical experience will train students to work with the diverse cultural backgrounds found in major metropolitan settings.The Institute seeks to develop in its students a professional identity which values and pursues:
1. Methods for encouraging habits of mind and discourse that promote
constructive ways for dealing with social justice-related issues.
2. A spirit of empirical inquiry and critical reflection.
3. A commitment to applied research.
4. An active sense of community responsibility combined with an appreciation and respect for cultural diversity.

The program would make use of current courses (and courses from Smith's proposal for a degree in Applied Psychology). Only two new courses would be added. The program would offer the following courses:Research Methods (now offered)
Intermediate Statistics (now offered)
Basic Helping and Interviewing Skills (proposed course in applied psychology)
Community Interventions (proposed course in applied psychology)
Field Work in Applied Psychology (would be contracted on an independent study
basis, like the current internship in the MA clinical program)
Advanced Statistics (now offered)
Children's Social Behavior: Gender and Culture Issues (now offered)
Advanced Research Methods (now offered)
Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy (now offered)
Applied Research Methods (now offered)
Applied Social Justice Research (new course)
Race Relations (new course)
Historical, philosophical, legal, and anthropological courses could be addedStudents who complete three courses from this list (two of which will be required) and an applied project will be awarded the Certificate in Social Justice Studies.Real-World InterventionsThe Institute will engage in real-world interventions. The Institute seeks to make a difference in the lives of individuals by offering experiential meetings, workshops, and programs that address social justice-related issues. Some examples include: Joint Meetings between Descendants of Victims and Descendants of Victimizers, Race-Relation Workshops, and Community Educational Outreach Programs (please see Joint Meetings Between Descendants of Victims and Descendants of Victimizers for a description of previous work ).

The purpose of these real-world interventions is to engage individuals in an examination of justice-related issues to promote the development of a more humane and just society. Real-world interventions seek to redirect feelings of anger about injustices into positive efforts in the community. By involving individuals in experiential meetings, workshops, and programs, individuals make the essential connection between justice-related issues and the ethical choices they face in their own lives. It deepens appreciation of each individual's action and generates greater respect for the diversity of human life.Theory BuildingThe Institute will seek to develop a body of knowledge and useful practices in a field as yet in its infancy. It will draw from the wealth of the many academic disciplines, yet seek to create not a mix but something new. Our method will be to shuttle between theory and practice. We will follow the credo there is nothing so practical as good theory, and nothing more stimulating to good theory than engaging in practice. The Institute is result-oriented. Our goal is to discover and invent effective processes for dealing with social justice-related issues.Written and Audiovisual MaterialsThe purpose of our publications is to reach scholars and practitioners with the fruits of research and practice, as well as to increase community awareness of the efficacy of ISJ's work for dealing with social justice-related issues.ISJ will develop a Resource Center for speakers and access to relevant books, periodicals, and audiovisual materials. The Resource Center will provide scholars, practitioners, and the community with innovative materials based on its ongoing real-world intervention work. Videotapes and publications about the joint meetings, race-relation workshops, and community programs will be prepared for distribution.

Also, the Resource Center will issue a newsletter reporting on the most recent information about ISJ's activities. In addition, the Resource Center will sponsor conferences and panel discussions that will bring together scholars, researchers, and practitioners to explore issues relevant to the Institute's mission.

III. RATIONALE FOR AN INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE STUDIES AT ROOSEVELTRoosevelt's historical mission fits with a Social Justice-Oriented Institute.Roosevelt's history makes the school a particularly appropriate place to set up an Institute for Social Justice Studies. One distinctive characteristic of Roosevelt University is that it was born out of a historic dispute for equality and justice. The University came into existence because Edward Sparling refused to follow unjust discriminatory practices. His actions prompted the creation of a different kind of an academic institution. One committed to democratic values and ideals.The Institute for Social Justice Studies, whose mission is to increase our understanding of justice in human relations, fits perfectly with this founding ideal. By engaging individuals in an examination of justice-related issues the Institute hopes to promote the development of a more just society. The Institute is grounded in the concern that injustices between people, left unexamined, may perpetuate conflict. Injustices handled well can provide the impetus for growth, constructive change, and mutual benefit. No other university has a history or a mission more fitting with a social justice-oriented Institute than Roosevelt.An Institute for Social Justice Studies would help promote the meaning of Roosevelt as a place of genuine diversity.Additionally, the new scholarship and debate about diversity fits with the reasons for establishing an Institute for Social Justice Studies at Roosevelt. Scholars and educators are now more aware of the link between race and culture in scholarship and practice. They have come to a greater realization of the need for more attention to issues of diversity in our classrooms and communities. Yet, despite this realization issues of diversity are seldom addressed in the classroom.Establishing an Institute for Social Justice Studies would help address this need. Students would be given the opportunity to work on projects related to issues of racial and cultural diversity. Their diverse experiences would become an important resource in the classroom. Students' contributions would expand the limits of the literature in ways that would make the idea of racial and cultural diversity come alive in classes and in research.

An example may make this clearer. Last year I organized a research project on slavery, (which received much media attention). Ten graduate psychology students, five black and five white, worked on the project. Students were responsible for interviewing potential participants and for collecting data about the long term impact of slavery. The students, however, learned more than data-collection techniques. The research project became a vehicle for a conversation about race. It encouraged students to talk openly about the racial diversity in the team, about the effects of slavery, and about the division of the races in America.Working on the project helped to break down the walls of silence that have often isolated white students from black students. Generally speaking, whites and blacks have been reluctant to confront each other with their feelings. Yet as difficult as it was, the fact that both white students and black students felt so free to vent their opinions about racial issues represented a kind of growth. The students learned the history behind their feelings, and those facts changed the way they saw each other.It is this kind of learning experience that helps make diversity more than just an abstract idea. Establishing an Institute for Social Justice Studies would extend such educational opportunities. Futhermore, establishing an Institute for Social Justice Studies would help promote the meaning of Roosevelt University as a place of genuine diversity.

There are currently no university-based justice programs in Chicago.

The need for a Social Justice Studies Institute is very strong. Although Arizona State University offers a Master of Science in Justice Studies and a Doctor of Philosophy in Justice Studies there are currently no university-based justice programs in Chicago. Informal surveys with students show that they are very interested in pursuing social justice-related studies. Also, surveys with professionals and the community at large show that they are interested in social justice related programs and activities. A social justice studies program would be unique in Chicago. The Institute for Social Justice Studies would build on Roosevelt's legacy and capitalize on the rich resources available through the College of Arts and Sciences.

IV. INSTITUTE MANAGEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATIONInstitute Staffing and BudgetThe Institute will be headed by the institute's director, a tenure member of the psychology faculty at Roosevelt. The director of the institute will be responsible for the overall direction of the institute. The real-world intervention programs will be coordinated by the institute's program coordinator. The program coordinator will be responsible for managing the real world intervention programs including the experiential meetings, the workshops, and the community outreach programs. The resource center will be headed by the coordinator of the resource center. The coordinator will be responsible for collecting and for providing scholars, practitioners and the community with relevant books, periodicals and audiovisual materials, for issuing a newsletter reporting on ISJ's recent activities, and for organizing conferences and panel discussions. Other personnel will include secretarial support, two research assistants (to help in ongoing research projects) and a grant-writer. Salaries for these positions are included in the budget (please see Budget Justification). These positions will be gradually phased in as the Institute grows and the needs increase.

ImplementationThe Institute will be implemented in three phases. In the first phase, a pilot Institute will operate. This would allow the Education and Training program to be available to students.After two years, the institute will expand to include planning the real-world intervention programs. This second phase (year 03), real-world intervention programs including related research projects will be designed and grants will be submitted to agencies supporting applied research in social justice studies and related studies such as research on the causes and consequences of violence and aggression.After three years, the operations will be carefully analyzed and further decisions will be made about the future of the institute. Among the possible developments, there exist the possibility for developing a degree program and a continuing education program offering seminars and training workshops on social justice conflicts and intervention strategies

.Institute Location and Space

The Institute will be located in the Downtown campus. Courses and activities will be offered in the day and the evening. The space needed include two offices in close proximity, a research lab, and a near by conference room. This would allow for group meetings. Eventually the availability of a modestly equipped room would assist in developing a resource center.