The William Paterson University Social Justice Project seeks to create an environment on campus that is welcoming, inclusive, and supportive for all its members. The Project recognizes that racism, sexism, heterosexism, and class inequality can be challenged as well as reinforced through institutional policies and pedagogical practices. It therefore works to engage these issues through campus-wide discussion.
The Social Justice Project provides faculty development resources for those who wish to better integrate issues of race and ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality into their work. It offers assistance to teachers of University Core Curriculum courses that fulfill the "Diversity and Justice" requirement as well as to teachers of other courses who see these issues as essential to their discipline.
To these ends, the Project organizes pedagogy workshops, brings in speakers to address the University community, and runs intensive training sessions for new and continuing instructors. It seeks to promote the integration of theory and practice across the curriculum and in campus culture.
History of the Social Justice Project
"Racism and Sexism in a Changing America," as the course was originally called, was created by faculty in the Women's Studies Program and the Department of African and Afro-american Studies as part of a revision of the general studies curriculum as approved by the William Paterson Senate in 1981. The first section of the course was offered in the Spring of 1982. In May of 1984, Leslie Agard-Jones, J. Jordan, Vernon McClean, and Paula Rothenberg led a two-week workshop in which they and thirteen other faculty members discussed how to teach this new course that was now part of the General Education requirement. The following Fall, these "core faculty" and others began participating regularly in afternoon pedagogy workshops.
The course, originally team taught, was one of the first such courses in the country and out of it grew the first edition of Paula Rothenberg's influential textbook, Racism and Sexism: An Integrated Study (St. Martin's Press, 1988). The Social Justice Project has been directed in turn by Paula Rothenberg, Susan Radner, Charley Flynt, J. Jordan, Bob Rosen, Rosa Soto, and, starting in the Fall of 2013, Sharmila (Pixy) Ferris.
The course has evolved over the years to include greater emphasis on the politics of sexuality and on a wider range of people of color. Three courses originally fulfilled the Racism and Sexism General Education requirement: "Racism and Sexism in the U.S," "Women's Changing Roles" and "Justice and Racism." With the development of the new University Core Curriculum general education program the Racism and Sexism requirement was replaced by the Area 4 Diversity and Justice requirement. “Racism and Sexism in the U.S” was re-visioned, and a new course, “Race, Gender and Social Justice” was developed to fulfill the Diversity and Justice requirement. It is one of many courses offered to fulfill the requirement.
In 2015, what had been called the Race and Gender Project changed its name to the Social Justice Project.