Social Justice

Learning Goals & Mission


The Social Justice Program (SJP) of Saint Peter’s University includes a minor degree in social justice, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Kairos Social Justice House, and extra-curricular peace and justice activities. The mission of its minor degree and its extra-curricular peace and justice activities is primarily to engage in the work of conscientization. Conscientization, the ability to know the reality of the world, particularly, the reality of injustice, poverty, environmental degradation, the destructiveness of war, the scourges of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. is achieved through, what Pedro Arrupe, S.J., calls the “dialectical unity of action-reflection.”

From conscientization, the academic and extra-curricular work of the Program moves to the work of liberation, the work of seeking justice in an unjust world and peace in a world wracked by violence. This work includes the study of and participation in policy analysis, conflict resolution, social movements, non-violent direct action, etc. Following in the tradition of the University of Central America, El Salvador (where six Jesuits were killed for their commitment to truth and justice in November of 1989), the SJP will “pursue truth about the national and global reality” by means of “teaching, research, and social projection,” or the means by which the SJP projects the truth it discovers directly into the social world outside campus in order to help shape social consciousness.” (Dean Brackley, S.J., “Higher Standards for Higher Education: The Christian University and Solidarity.”)

The mission of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Kairos Social Justice House (King-Kairos House) is to create a place where we build community as we work to make social justice a reality, and where we welcome a diversity of ideas and cultures. We work to deepen our own inner peace in our relationships with colleagues and friends, expand our knowledge base of social responsibility, and show our respect for living things and the environment. We seek to partner with other peace communities and join with them in non-violent activism.

Learning Goals

(a) Through its “Introduction to Social Justice” course, a basic requirement for all minors, the SJP will give its students a base knowledge of what social justice is, a critical understanding of the multiple ways in which the term “social justice” is defined, and the analytical skills needed to engage in the intellectual work of conscientization.

(b) Through its service learning or urban fieldwork requirement, the SJP will enable its minors to apply practically the theoretical skills introduced, developed, and honed in the “Introduction to Social Justice” course.

(c) Through its four electives (one course from the following categories: “faith and justice;” “politics, economics, and the environment;” “social diversity and stratification;” and, “social movements and change.”), in the minor curriculum the SJP will foster multi-disciplinary thinking and cross-disciplinary dialogue about social justice and conscientization. Further, and given its requirement of a course selected from the category of “Faith and Justice,” the SJP will instill in its students that they are to be, in the words of poet Carolyn Forche, “people of conscience, infinitely obligated to each other across time and space.” Finally, courses from the other three categories will place a special emphasis upon the learning about and preservation of civil rights, civil liberties, economic justice, and equality.

(d) Through the development of new courses, the SJP will encourage the study of emerging fields, such as environmental justice, gay and lesbian studies, etc. It will also offer courses in peace studies, nonviolent conflict resolution, etc., to ensure a balanced approach between conscientization and liberation.

(e) Through its extensive extra-curricular programming – which includes lectures, workshops, exhibits, seminars, field experience, teach-ins, etc. – the SJP seeks to continually refresh and sharpen the “dialectical unity of action-reflection” that is the basic element in the work of conscientization. Further, its extracurricular programs, particularly those which encourage political and community engagement, the SJP will remind its students that we are each global citizens not global consumers.

(f) Through the community life created and sustained in the King-Kairos House, the SJP begins the works of peacemaking on a local and one-to-one basis by means of directed activities geared to the development of nonviolent communication, community building, and friend/fellowship. Further, given the Jesuit emphasis (GC 34) emphasis upon “learning and taking up the traditions of others,” the diversity of the House’s community will be considered to be a particularly valued asset.

(g) Through the Fr. Coman Brady-Marc DiNardo garden (located in the backyard of the King-Kairos House), the SJP will teach the skills of earth stewardship, sustainability, and ecological sensitivity. Through its partnership with the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, the SJP will foster heightened awareness of  the harm of industrial farming and meat production and will teach alternative ways of living, such as organic farming, Community Sustained Agriculture, and animal husbandry. Through its monthly vegan meals, the SJP will teach its students how and why to prepare vegan meals and, as suggested by a recent United Nations Environment Report, move toward veganism as an earth and health sustaining way of life.

(h) Through the seminars, workshops, and skills training sessions sponsored in the King-Kairos House and the development of its base community, the SJP will teach its students to become leaders in the work of social justice.

(i) Through its special seminars in nonviolence, and given the University’s awarding of an honorary degree to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the SJP will ensure that the theory and practice of nonviolence is at the center of its liberatory studies and practices. Our students will understand the causes of war, the political and economic structural imperative toward war making, and about the devastating consequences of war so that they might be better citizens who are intent upon helping to create a world that does not wage war.