Students earn credit for 'organizing' for 'social justice'

Students at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst can earn credit for "organizing" for "social justice" this spring.

Information provided about one course refers to being "woke" and fighting "complex systems of marginalization."

The application for a new “grassroots community organizing” course at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst asks students their opinion on being “woke” and to respond to comments on the challenges faced by the “left.”

“Do you have a PASSION for SOCIAL JUSTICE? Do you want to make a DIFFERENCE?” asks a flyer advertising the course. The course, being offered to students at all five University of Massachusetts colleges seeks to teach students how to advance “social justice” through grassroots organizing organization. 

Students will earn five-course credits by studying “ways that diverse communities build power to address complex systems of marginalization, violence, and inequality.”

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The course description states its primary objective is, “...for students to develop the capacity to learn from and act in effective and complex solidarity with communities organizing for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice.”

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The course application includes an essay prompt in which students must respond to a Facebook post by scholar-activist Keeanaga-Yamahtta Taylor made seven days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The post refers to “the issue for the left” as being “how do we get from where we are today to where we want to be in terms of making our marches blacker, browner, and more working class.”

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“Yesterday was the beginning, not the end. What happens in between will be decided by what we do. Movements do not come to us from heaven fully formed and organized. They are built by regular people,” the prompt continues. “We must do a better job at facilitating debate, discussion and argument so that we talk about how to build the kind of movement we want, but the endless critiques with no commitment to diving into organizing to struggle for the kind of movement we want is not a serious approach.”

“There are literally millions of people in this country who are now questioning everything. We need to open up our organizations, planning meetings, marches and other actions to them. We need to read together, learn together, be in the streets together and stand up to this assault together. let’s engage people and stop writing people off before we’ve even gotten started,” it goes on. Applicants are then asked to react to the quote, considering questions like “are you often critical...of people for not being aware/woke enough?”

The flyer advertising the course directs applicants to a website with a course description that references an “Alternative Spring Break trip,” which is “mandatory,” as is a separate “retreat” for which no details are provided.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter:@Jess__Custodio