Colorado State pays 'eco leaders' to create 'social justice' project

Participants sign an agreement and commit not only up to five hours of “peer-to-peer sustainability engagement” per week, but also to attending weekly sustainability classes.

Colorado State University pays "eco leaders" $2,000 annually to perform environmental and social justice advocacy on campus.

A Colorado State University residential program offers monetary compensation for environmental and social justice advocacy on campus.

The university’s “eco leaders” program offers students both compensation and academic credit for helping to “raise awareness about sustainability issues” within their residence halls and  encouraging “environmentally responsible behaviors of campus residents.”

Participants sign an agreement and commit not only to five hours of “peer-to-peer sustainability engagement” per week but also to attending weekly sustainability classes. Students receive three to four credit units per year for completing the required classes. After going on a mountain retreat as part of their training, these leaders embark on a journey to gain and spread knowledge about topics such as the economy, the environment, and social justice.

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As part of this curriculum, students are required to plan and present a “social justice grant or project.” In one assignment, students view said project through a “social justice lens” in order to assess exactly how “socially just” their project actually is. This is done by analyzing the proposed project through four subcategories: access, agency, solidarity action, and advocacy.

The reading material for this assignment explains that “access is the gateway to inclusion and participation,” noting the “inherent socially just nature of the public education system.”

“Institutions only open to a privileged or select few have a high social injustice quotient,” the assignment adds. “Restricted societies close off opportunities.” 

“In conjunction, a social justice education is imperative for developing socially responsible, democratic participation in a civil society,” it adds. The same reading mentions the “ultimate goal of equity.”

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The program is a function of Colorado State’s Housing & Dining Staff services, which offers each eco-leader $2,000 yearly in housing stipends.  

Campus Reform reached out to the university for clarification on the source of the funding for these stipends but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan