Social Justice Programming and the University

Over the course of the semester and in the course of completing the readings for this week I have spent a lot of time thinking about the ways in which Public Humanities work, and the work that Museums and other Cultural Institutions are doing relates to the similar work that is taking place on college campuses.

In Museum, Society, and Inequality, Richard Sandell writes about a framework in which “museums can impact positively on the lives of disadvantaged or marginalized individuals, act as a catalyst for social regeneration and as a vehicle for empowerment with specific communities and also contribute towards the creation of more equitable societies.” (pg 4) Students and educators working in Student Activities Offices, multicultural centers, and other spaces here at Brown are taking a similar approach cultural and identity centered programming, with similar goals.

For example, this year Je-Shawna Wholley, Program Coordinator for the LGBTQ Center here at Brown, hosted a Queer Legacy entitled Radical Joy.

The lineup for Radical Joy Queer Legacy Series 2017

The series, which centered experiences of Black Queer people and took an intersectional approach to conversations on masculinity, racial identity, queer love, and trans identity.  It was also a direct response to complaints from students about anti-blackness in social justice spaces. Through Radical Joy Je-Shawna sought to empower queer black students by making a marginalized community more visible and also create a more equitable community by providing spaces for others to learn (both of which are strategies employed in Sandell’s article).

Though there is often a similarity in the social justice programming happening in Student Affairs and Arts Administration, it seems rare (at least in my experience) that Student Affairs professionals collaborate with Arts Administrators on the creation of programs or exchange of strategies. As I continue on in my journey as a budding Public Human / Student Affairs professional one question continues to be on my mind and at the center of my work:

How can Student Affairs professionals draw from the work of museum professionals and arts administrators to create dynamic and meaningful arts-based social justice programs on college campuses?

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