York’s new Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) is York St John’s answer to tackling some the big social, economic, and environmental challenges facing society today.
Launched to build on the University’s long record of radical and innovative work, the Institutes gives a voice, and opportunities, to groups and individuals who are often stigmatized, marginalised, or under-represented in higher education.
The launch comes at a critical time, as longstanding social injustices and inequalities gain wider attention and as society looks to recover and respond following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Professor Andy Hill, Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research explains:
Social justice is about looking at where the systems, decisions and sometimes unconscious choices we make in society have a negative impact of particular groups and individuals, then working out what we can do about that to create a fairer world for everyone.
Universities can play an important part in that by asking the right questions, investigating what is happening and taking actions, so that things change for the better. York St John University has always done that, but we recognise how essential it is that we step up now and play an even bigger part.
The Black Lives Matter movement, the inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus and the environmental risks the world faces – all these things relate to questions of social justice. Our new Institute is a statement of intent to see where our expertise and efforts can help make the biggest difference on issues and inequalities that affect people’s lives.
The Institute is the latest development in an ongoing series of initiatives that see York St John’s staff and students working together and in partnership with other organisations to highlight and address important societal challenges.
In recent years, the University’s work has included offering free arts courses to users of mental health services, supporting UK military personnel to transition back into mainstream society, raising awareness of sexual violence and abuse, and exploring how to improve access to education in coastal and rural parts of the country.
The Institute’s first Director, Professor Matthew Reason’s vision is for an outward facing and proactive Institute:
The traditional concept of a University is of a cloistered place that sees itself as something apart from the wider world. We want to reverse that, turn the University inside out and recognise its responsibility and potential to work for social justice. The model for the Institute for Social Justice is to conduct work with people, with communities and with partners in a manner that has real impact.
York St John already collaborates in the community so they can understand people’s experiences and work with them to make their lives better. The ISJ aims to further this work forging new connections and really underlining that this commitment to social justice runs throughout York St John, impacting on everything they do from research, to teaching, to their relationship with the city and world around them.
The Institute for Social Justice will be central to animating the driving purpose of York St John University, which is to lead on creating a fairer and more inclusive world.
Found out all about the Institute for Social Justice and look out for a physical launch event once Covid-19 measures allow.