Social Justice Committee – December 2015 Updates

Curious about what the university-wide Social Justice Committee is up to? Check out the minutes below from their December meeting. Or better yet, sit in on an upcoming meeting! The next meeting is this Wednesday, February 3rd at 3:00 pm in the the Baldwin Rivera Boggs Social Justice Hub (outside rooms 513/514 in the University Center).


Minutes from The New School Social Justice Committee Meeting


In Attendance: Keisha Davenport-Ramirez (Staff co-chair), Paul Marcus (Faculty co-chair), Warren Spielberg (Faculty), Susan Mayer (Faculty), Onno DeJong (Faculty), Nicholas Allanach (Staff), Tamara Oyola Santiago (Staff), Susan Austin (Staff), Cynthia Lawson (Staff), Brita Servaes (Staff), Gail Drakes (Dir. of Social Justice Initiatives), George Fisher (Faculty), Shannon Logan (Staff), Gigi Polo (Faculty), Jasveen Sarna (Student)

Guests: Kendra Danowski (Staff – Program Coord. of Civic Engagement and Social Justice at Lang), Gena Deronsena (SPE alumnus)

Not Attending: Tim Marshall (Provost), Kathleen Breidenbach (Staff), Randy Mulder (Faculty), Melissa Guerro (Student), Aliyah Hakim (Student), Ollin Rodriguez-Lopez (Student), Masoom Moitra (Student co-chair), Mariana Pizzol (Student), Jasmine Kabera (Student), Zsuzsa Feher (Student)



  • New member, Ollin Rodriguez-Lopez (SPE – student), announced.
  • Cinzia Arruzza (NSSR – faculty) is rotating off the committee.
  • Update from Co-Chairs and Gail on the President and Provost’s Strategic Leadership Meeting with the Social Justice Committee (SJC) co-chairs.
  • Social Justice in the Curriculum
  • By-Laws, process, and Mission Statement update.
  • Social Justice Exchange
  • SJC Communications
  • Students List of Demands to President
  • Food and Housing Justice
  • Student Compensation and Support for SJ work.


  • The SJC co-chairs met with the President and Provost and shared an updated list of the university’s working priorities. This list was revised to reflect the concerns from the SJC. The list of priorities includes,
  • Integrating Social Justice training and educational opportunities into wider university curriculum initiatives. This also includes more support for existing programs.
  • Training for senior staff, regular staff, and faculty on micro-aggressions, training and education regarding issues of race and racism. (This could also include gender awareness and sensitivity training.)
  • The costs of education. Developing policies to help support students struggling with the day-to-day costs associated with their studies. Also better education around Financial Aid, Loan Policies, external scholarships, etc.
  • Reviewing and possibly updating the NS’s sexual assault and discrimination policies.
  • The co-chairs suggest that the SJC try matching the priorities of its own work with the work and concerns communicated in DVZ’s “letter to the community” (emailed on Nov. 20th) regarding Social Justice in the curriculum, policies to help support the day-to-day costs of education, and reviewing (and possibly updating) the sexual assault & harassment policies. Although this letter “doesn’t stress the definitive,” it does show “our persistence has benefited and informed this work.”
  • The co-chairs expressed a general feeling of partnership and collaboration from the executive office and found it helpful to have the President’s Chief of Staff, Deborah Bogosian, in the room with them to help determine who actually has a say in regards to university-wide policies.
  • The President is apparently implementing a ‘results task force’, which will likely begin looking into the three aforementioned concerns expressed to the NS community in the email from the President on Nov. 20th.
  • SJC had a wider discussion about whether members from the SJC will be a part of these working groups, or if we are able to assist with this work? The SJC seems to need more clarification on how the SJC will work (if at all…) most effectively with these Presidential initiatives?
  • It is PROPOSED that the food insecurity and student homelessness working-group, which is specifically focused on the economic concerns of students and is already working with the Student Senate, etc. could become a useful working model, or template to replicate concerning various other SJ issues?
  • This discussion of a “results task force” inspired many questions for consideration. (g., who will be involved? What is the best medium for engaging in these topics? Is a town hall the best way to broach conversations about race and equity? Will HR be involved with the trainings? How do we measure a trainer’s expertise? etc.) We know the President has expressed enthusiasm about hosting an event in the spring, but what will it look like and who will assist in hosting?
  • SJC discusses concerns that a teach-in (or whatever this event may be) will only attract the same audience that goes to other Social Justice events, when the point of any future work should be to engage with those whom are not having the needed and challenging conversations; accordingly, how do we open up these conversations to the larger community?
  • Since the President and Provost are managing this, the co-chairs have been asked if there is anyone who might be interested in assisting on these working groups or task force?
  • A few SJC members VOLUNTEER to assist in these working groups / tasks force.
  • Warren Spielberg – volunteers to serve on diversity training and education.
  • Susan Mayer and Tamara Oyola-Santiago – volunteer to serve on the costs of education, and/or materials group.


  • Social Justice in the Curriculum: Staff member SUGGESTS (based on work from former student, Rashid Owoyele) that one idea is that all freshmen be required to take a ‘Social Justice 101’ course when being admitted into The New School. There is also the option of doing a series of SJ lectures (e.g., Bell Hooks) that could be incorporated into the curriculum. This could be a good model to replicate.
  • Discussion about how we can learn more and look back at the work that has been already done re: incorporating SJ into the curriculum.
  • There is a PROPOSAL for the SJC to develop a working group within the committee that would look specifically at curriculum.
  • There is a PROPOSAL to invite members of the university-wide curriculum committee to our next SJC mtg. We also would like to talk more with members of the SJC who serve on this committee.


  • Social Justice Comm. By-Laws & Mission Statement: Cynthia and Gigi report back and present the great work they did to revise and update the mission statement and by-laws of the SJC. (see attached docs.)
  • Cynthia and Gigi recommend and encourage the SJC to review the Google docs. And update with notes and comments. We need to either update these docs. to reflect what is actually going on the in SJC, or begin following what they purport the SJC does.
  • Since the President and Provost look to the student and faculty senates to do temperature checks on campus concerns, what role does this SJC play in this conversation?
  • Where do proposals for the SJC come from? Where do they go? Do they go to the SJI Office? The SJC?
  • A lot of times these ‘proposals’ don’t come so much as proposals as demands. There is not a standard trajectory for this process. Realistically, things often happen last-minute; accordingly, how would any process shift, or benefit students from organizing?
  • How many Social Justice related groups are there already on campus? What is the reason any of these groups would come to us for proposals, or support? What is the incentive?
  • SJC has a conversation about the usefulness of the SJ event requests form on the blog. Is this process too slow? How many students have used it? Are there any analytics on this info.? Who is responsible for vetting these requests?
  • Gena (guest alumnus), SUGGESTS the SJC poll students about meeting dates and proposals that are of concern to them. There should also be a person tasked with vetting these proposals to ensure they are prepared for delivery. Gena also expresses the concern that the SJC really needs to work to get out more into the community to promote itself. (She didn’t even know the SJC existed if it hadn’t of been for an invite from a staff member.) Gena SUGGESTS the SJC develop a bi-weekly newsletter like the one distributed to the New School through OSDA.

– Keisha (staff co-chair of the SJC) admits the SJC must do a better job communicating how the SJC can support students. The event form ‘was working.’ But she knows ‘we need to promote and communicate things better.’ She indicates that there ‘is technically an events committee.’ But did not indicate WHO IS ON THIS COMMITTEE…

  • Social Justice Exchange: Susan Austin and Cynthia Lawson PROPOSE the idea of a committee sponsored “Social Justice Exchange” to happen in Spring ’16, which would become a nice way to find synergies and collaborative relationships between groups. This would be a good way to foster and build on community. Ultimately, how can we maximize participation and get more people listening and sharing? This would be about networking. This SJ exchange would be separate from the office committee mtg.
  • Nick proposes the idea of an end-of-the-academic-year Social Justice Expo, which would be sponsored by the SJC and would be a nice follow-up from the Social Justice Exchange. This would be an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to highlight and present on the Social Justice work they have done this year.
  • There is expressed enthusiasm to host a Social Justice Exchange. The group AGREES to CONTACT students, faculty, and staff interested in working together on a Social Justice Exchange for February.
  • Staff member REQUESTS we’re clear on what the SJC is able to assist with and provide. Is it access to power? Is it funding? Is it reserving space? Etc.
  • Keisha admits that the meet-ups during orientation week are helpful. ‘Students are hungry to learn about the goals and work that is happening here.’ But we need to do report-backs and follow-ups. How can we better support these students?


  • Communications Working Group: PROPOSES to activate and use an SJC specific, Facebook ‘community’ page. SJC discusses the strengths and weaknesses of this. Group AGREES to forgo any activating of new communication platforms until we gain a better understanding and knowledge of the mediums that are already available to us.

–     Group also AGREES to ‘pin’ posts and announcements from the SJC on the Social Justice at The New School Facebook / ‘horizontal’ group.

  • SJC also AGREES to transfer the ownership of the folders that Masoom developed with other members of the SJC who will not rotate off in two years. Nick will begin populating these docks into Masoom’s folder.
  • SJC should familiarize itself with these folders and docs.
  • Gail also announces that the SJC page on the Provost’s site, has been overhauled and that the committee’s bios are not updated. <<Who is updating this list of bios.? Who is responsible for updating this page?
  • (Nick will reach out to Chris Crews.) regarding disabling this since members of the are also on this and it is getting confusing to use both platforms.



  • List of demands from Students: Jasveen VOLUNTEERS to circulate the list of demands from the student groups that will be presented to the President and Provost. Some of the issues on this list are similar to concerns the SJC is focusing on (e.g., Food and housing justice, Climate of the institution, etc.)


  • Food and Housing Justice Working Group (*this is not an SJC group): Tamara updated the SJC on this working group’s progress, which has ‘identified do-able short-term and long-term goals.’ SHS staff visited Brooklyn College’s food pantry to consider ways the New School could also have a food pantry. All we need is space (at the university) 5’x5’ for non-perishable items.

–     Tamara thinks there is enough buy-in to get volunteers and a work-study to staff the food pantry. We think we can get this going by the Fall ’16. There will be an open meeting on Jan. 28th 4-5:30 p.m. on the BRB SJ Hub (U-514) Although this is not ‘technically’ an SJC working group, Tamara encourages people to be in support of this. The group is also working with the Corbin Hill Farm project and needs leverage from the SJC. (Finally, If you know of an area (5×5’) that is under-utilized, mention it to Tamara.)


  • Student Activists Support / Student Compensation: Keisha PROPOSES that we convene one working group mtg. in which we talk about the various models, regarding compensation for students. This needs to be managed. Who is responsible? We should be able to answer these questions in one meeting. We need to develop a system of compensation, specifically for students serving on the SJC. Students want re-numeration for their work. Keisha would like to see students on this committee. According to Keisha, Masoom is interested in being a part of this conversation. One possible system for this could be the structure seen in SHS based on the peer health advocates. This working group will be made up of (Keisha, Masoom, Shannon, and Tamara) This group will meet once.


  • SJC Meeting time and Location: There is a discussion PROPOSED by Nick regarding the usefulness of our meeting times (especially, in concern to student members who are unable to attend because our Wed. from 3-5 p.m. mtg. is during their class time.) Nick also PROPOSES meeting more (e.g., year round and twice a month) and perhaps on alternative days to increase attendance.
  • There are objections to more meetings. Objections to meeting year-round and a larger conversation about the university’s challenge to host meetings when everyone is available.
  • There is also the PROPOSAL from Cynthia to more effectively use the digital platforms and mediums available to us to keep up the momentum from the meetings.
  • There is also a conversation about the usefulness of the location.
  • SJC DECIDES to meet on Feb. 3rd from 3-5 p.m. in the BRB SJC hub and to include signs that might welcome and invite students walking by to contribute.



  • INVITE the curriculum comm. meet with us next month?
  • Develop an SJC working group to look at the curriculum?
  • SJC should review the by-laws doc. and flowchart from the by-laws group.
  • 13th (SJ brown bag)
  • 21st SJC MIXER
  • SJC members will staff a table at the Winter Warm-up on Thurs. Jan. 28th.
  • Organize, reach out to student groups, and host a Social Justice Exchange in Spring ’16 (for February).
  • Social Justice Expo for Sp’16 – is this a possibility?
  • Who is on the SJC events working group?
  • Organize and co-share the responsibilities of the shared folders that Masoom developed.
  • Who is responsible for cleaning-up and updating the SJC site on the homepage?
  • List of demands from students will be circulated to the SJC to assist with planning.
  • Food and Housing Justice mtg. 28th 4-5:30 p.m. on the BRB – SJ Hub. (And be on the lookout for a 5×5’ area for the potential food pantry.)
  • The SJC nominations working group will follow-up in the next mtg. to see if there are any faculty interested in assuming Cinzia’s vacant position.
  • Keisha will convene a working group re: student compensation.


Next Social Justice Comm. mtg. is scheduled for Wed., Feb.3rd from 3- 5 p.m. on the BRB SJ Hub.