MA university brings social justice to health sciences

With less than one month to go before the start of classes, MPCHS University is looking to hire an instructor to teach a course dedicated to social justice.

The private university, formerly known as Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is currently seeking adjunct professors to teach a twice-weekly course, fittingly titled Social Justice, which will explore the impact of “differential societal structures” on health outcomes.

According to the job description, the class will cover “the multifaceted concept of social justice and how environments in which we live, work, and play continuously shape our opinions, attitudes, knowledge, skills, abilities, and especially our health outcomes.”

Students participating in the class will be encouraged to “think critically about differential societal structures that shape access and trajectory,” which will reportedly include “health disparities, health equity, privilege, socioeconomic status, criminal justice, and ethnocentrism.”

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Roger Denome, Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, told Campus Reform that the Social Justice course aligns with the mission of the university, and is both beneficial and necessary for public health students.

“I think it is essential that we make the social justice issues that impact public health overt and obvious for students who are less experienced and haven’t been out in the world,” Denome explained.

According to Denome, after completing the course, students are expected to successfully demonstrate familiarity with overarching historical and theoretical concepts of social justice, describe societal concepts that contribute to social injustice, and explain how personal discomfort and societal structure can contribute to the presence of societal oppression.

“We are lucky to have somebody who realizes just how public health and healthcare is for different groups in society and that’s not just black and white, that’s different genders; women vs. men,” Denome continued, asserting that “all of those things affect public health, and a social justice class that deals with those things makes sense for us.”

MPCHS is not the first school to offer a social justice course, with some even allowing students to major in the subject. Students at Merrimack College, for example, have the opportunity to “turn their passion for change, human rights, and a more just world into a career through the major in Social Justice.”

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According to Merrimack’s website, the social justice major is intended to properly prepare students for the “demands of a world where our awareness of inequality and capacity to address social issues have become globally interconnected.”

In addition to the schools that are offering majors and specific courses for students to pursue their social justice aspirations, some individual professors are even incorporating the concept into curricula on their own initiative.

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Prof. Amanda Ruth Waugh Lagji, who teaches postcolonial literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst recently declared on her website that she intends to “to make diversity a perspective as well as a methodology in the classroom by considering the assumptions and values we (myself, and my students) bring into the classroom space,” adding that she tries “to make the classroom a safe space for these conversations.”

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