UMD Social Justice Day aims to coordinate on-campus activism

"Social Justice Day" event at College Park flagship campus this week (April 18) shows potential for change in campus action, plus need for more coordination and concrete steps. A thorough Diamondback report outlined the day's events.

/PM BlogSpace Report/ Social justice questions got an institutional-level examination at the University of Maryland on Tuesday (April 18) when the College Park campus held its first Social Justice Day with presentations and conversations across the spectrum of current inequalities and proposed remedies.

It was a university-backed event with student, faculty and staff participation, as Diamondback reporter Natalie Schwartz reported in the student daily newspaper.

The focus was on “five key social justice themes — immigration, economic inequality, environmental justice, creating healthy communities and the media,” the article related.

"[These] are the crying social issues of the day," said university President Wallace Loh, who spoke to open the event. "Here we are applying our learning, our teaching and our research to address those issues from a particular perspective, the perspective of justice. We mean procedural justice, fairness, equality and substantive justice — human dignity, diversity and the values that define this county," the Diamondback article continued.

Progressive Maryland activists will quickly resonate with those priorities.

Still, the struggle against injustice and inequality goes on even at the state’s own flagship campus, where low-wage staff – including students – are pushing for the same wage protection as other Prince George’s workers are afforded. Progressive student activists have joined in that campaign

As often happens, though, on-campus activism and progressive struggles in adjacent communities seem to happen in their own echo chambers. That appeared to be a stimulus for the campus-wide perspective.

Provost Mary Anne Rankin, who approved plans for the event, said "We felt there was a deep need to figure out some things to do that would really help people see the world from another's perspective, would really help to change the sense of inclusiveness, and also the sense of diversity as a public good and social justice as a public good on the campus."

The keynote speaker tried to jolt listeners out of their siloes, as the article detailed.

“Richard Reeves, a senior fellow in economic studies and co-director at the Center on Children and Families, was the keynote speaker for the event,” the Diamondback article continued.

“Economic mobility, or the ability for someone to improve his or her income, has been eroding in America, Reeves said. Only half of Americans born in 1984 are better off than their parents, a steep decline from about 90 percent of those born in 1940, according to a 2016 National Bureau of Economic Research study.

“Black Americans who are born into poverty are twice as likely to stay poor than white Americans, Reeves said, and black Americans born into the middle class are also twice as likely to fall in poverty. Fixing these problems and creating more social justice won't happen by accident, Reeves said.

"It happens as the result of intentional policy and intentional investments by individual community institutions," Reeves said. "It will not happen by itself," the newspaper quoted him as saying.