Vassar offers course on fighting economic inequality, sexism

Sociology majors at Vassar College can fulfill an introductory course requirement by enrolling in a section explicitly devoted to social justice issues.

The course, called “A Social Justice Approach,” will be taught by Vassar sociology professor Eileen Leonard during the spring semester, when she hopes to introduce students to “social justice” through a “sociological perspective” by teaching them about the “structural” and “cultural forces” perpetuating injustice.

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The course, notably, is one of ten offered under the umbrella category of “151 Introductory Sociology,” any one of which students can take to meet the requirement.

According to a description for the course, social justice is a theory that “delineates and describes injustices such as economic inequality, racism, sexism, and homophobia and, by definition, addresses solutions and alternative social systems.

“Sociology has a long tradition of commitment to social justice issues and we will consider a wide variety of them including: issues of power, how social advantages and disadvantages are distributed, the relationship between social location and inequality, and the practice of reducing the gap between them at the local, national, and global levels,” Leonard elaborates.

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Like Leonard, the Sociology Department as a whole places social justice at the forefront of its mission, claiming to instill a “passion for social justice” and a “critical awareness of social inequalities” in its students.

Meanwhile, a “history” of the department published on its website notes that its “diverse faculty” are “strongly committed to social justice and the discipline’s relevance for grappling with the complexities of a contemporary world.”

Accordingly, Vassar’s Sociology Department offers several other social-justice themed courses, including one on “Masculinities,” which explains how gender is a “social structure of inequality,” another on “Topics in Feminist Activism,” and another on “Centering Black Women and Girl’s Lives.”

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In addition to “A Social Justice Approach,” a course on “overlooked” sociological ideas from minorities also fulfills the “151 Introductory Sociology” requirement, noting that “ideas about society that we value usually come from the European, the heterosexual, the male or fully-abled.”

Campus Reform reached out to Leonard for additional comment on her course, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen