York St John University has launched a new Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) to help address some of the social, economic, and environmental challenges facing society.
The ISJ is intended to develop the university’s reputation for social justice work, and will bring together York St John’s community initiatives, in which staff and students work with organisations including the NHS, HM Prisons and North Yorkshire Police to effect positive social change.
Latest funded projects include research into reduce flood risks, communication barriers around sexual violence, the language difficulties facing LGBT+ asylum seekers and how employers can help menopausal women in the workplace.
“The traditional concept of a university is of a cloistered place that sees itself as something apart from the wider world. We want to reverse that, turn the university inside out and recognise its responsibility and potential to work for social justice,” said Professor Matthew Reason, the Institute’s first director.
“The model for the Institute for Social Justice is to conduct work with people, with communities and with partners in a manner that has real impact.
“York St John has a lot of experience already of collaborating in the community to understand people’s experiences and working with them to make their lives better.
“The ISJ is tasked with drawing this work together, forging new connections and really underlining that this commitment to social justice runs throughout York St John University, impacting on everything we do from research, to teaching, to our relationship with the city and world around us. The Institute for Social Justice will be central to animating the driving purpose of York St John University, which is to lead on creating a fairer and more inclusive world.”
The traditional concept of a university is of a cloistered place that sees itself as something apart from the wider world. We want to reverse that, turn the university inside out – Professor Matthew Reason
Professor Andy Hill, acting pro-vice chancellor for research added:
“Social justice is about looking at where the systems, decisions and sometimes unconscious choices we make in society have a negative impact of particular groups and individuals, then working out what we can do about that to create a fairer world for everyone.
“Universities can play an important part in that by asking the right questions, investigating what is happening and taking actions, so that things change for the better. York St John University has always done that, but we recognise how essential it is that we step up now and play an even bigger part.
“The Black Lives Matter movement, the inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus and the environmental risks the world faces – all these things relate to questions of social justice. Our new Institute is a statement of intent to see where our expertise and efforts can help make the biggest difference on issues and inequalities that affect people’s lives”.
The university hopes to follow the ISJ’s digital launch with a physical launch event when Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
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