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Center for Social and Environmental Justice slowly rebuild

The Center for Social and Environmental Justice at Washington State University Vancouver has undergone reduction in recent years. Since 2011, the formal certificate in Social and Environmental Justice has not been available to students. Due to a combination of new administrators added to the WSU Vancouver staff and the economic recession, the Center suffered greatly and was forced to cut back its programs, including the Certificate. Marcelo Diversi, Ph.D., Director of the CSEJ and Professor of Human Development, said that there are plans to get the CSEJ back on its feet.

In the past, the certificate was offered for non-degree seeking students, those seeking a Bachelor of Arts in fields such as English and humanities, as well as those seeking a Bachelor of Science in biology, nursing or psychology. The pamphlet for the original certificate program stated its purpose: “provide an academically rigorous course of studies that enables students to critically scrutinize the root causes of social inequality, the assumptions that underlie various approaches to social change, and to envision and initiate alternative institutional and organizational approaches to social and environmental justice.”

The certificate consisted of fifteen credits and included an ongoing seminar and practicum in community development and organizing. A one hundred hour internship was included in the practicum, and students were also required to choose a discipline within the certificate from the following: environmental justice, global politics, inequality and social justice and peace and justice issues.

Educational conferences formerly held for the community and those on campus have been missing from the CSEJ’s yearly activities. Some professors who formerly taught classes included in the certificate have left campus or retired, thus eliminating some of the classes formerly offered. The club for social and environmental justice has also not been active in recent years. Despite these major setbacks, Diversi said there is a “promise of new resources, where we will have to do more with less.”

Diversi said that the process of rebuilding the CSEJ could take two to three years and perhaps even five, depending on factors such as funding, a vote and passage by the Faculty Organization Executive Committee and student interest. First, Diversi said “the Center needs to be back on its feet” with support from the new administration, which is occurring. A proposal to the FOEC will need to be made, voted on, passed and approved by Administration.

Students and faculty who are interested in the CSEJ’s mission and revival can help by attending seminars put on by the Center and getting to know those who are working hard for this mission. The next seminar is Pavithra Narayanan’s “Indigenous Land Rights and Resistance” on March 11. The seminar takes place at noon in the Dengerink Administration Building, Room 129. Questions about these events in particular can be answered by Desiree Hellegers at  desiree.hellegers@vancouver.wsu.edu.

Diversi said “we may be able to revive what we had before with the Center and add new classes to the certificate,” but this depends on the factors mentioned. Awareness of the CSEJ needs to be raised through media channels and surveys of student interest. The CSEJ has the possibility of making a comeback and to be stronger than ever, but it needs the help of its university.

Any questions, concerns or comments can be directed to Marcelo Diversi, Ph.D., Director for the Center of Social and Environmental Justice, at diversi@vancouver.wsu.edu.

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