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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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11. Tokenizing Social Justice in Higher Education (Cristobal Salinas Jr. / Valerie A. Guerrero)


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11.  Tokenizing Social Justice in Higher Education


Though the term “social justice” has been in use in numerous contexts for hundreds of years, within higher education, the term has evolved to represent a myriad of connotations. The use of the word itself has become controversial in some circles, while meaningless in others. In section one of this chapter, we will explore some of the most common ways higher education currently engages with the concept of social justice. First, a brief review of terms conflated with social justice, then a deconstruction of social justice as a nonperformative, and finally an overview of how social justice is used as a barrier to engagement. Section two offers recommendations for effective engagement in social justice at individual, institutional, and cultural levels. Within each level, we provide examples and conceptual models to guide further study. Through this chapter brave spaces and multicontext thinking are presented as new practices to cultivate more effective engagement of social justice.

Section 1: What Is Social Justice?

While the notion of a common good attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas embodies components of social justice, the term itself was not in wide use until the 1840s when the phrase was introduced by a scholar generalizing the work of Aquinas (Gilson, 2013). Debate still exists about Aquinas’ meaning of justice, which has influenced a complicated relationship between Christian values and social...

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