The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Opinion | Social justice courses should be mandatory for UI students

Mandatory social justice classes would significantly improve the campus culture centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Cody Blissett
The Old Capitol Building is seen in Iowa City, on April 26, 2023.

Imagine a world where every individual is equipped with the knowledge and understanding to challenge and dismantle systemic discrimination.

Breaking down barriers starts with acknowledging differences and social justice courses already pave the way for empathy and diversity appreciation at the University of Iowa.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the founding principles of the UI’s DEI program. The division’s main goal is to create an environment that actively disavows discrimination practices in higher education and reduces the harmful consequences of inequality in the outside world.

Unfortunately, the UI’s DEI division is unable to close the door completely to discrimination practices that trickle through the cracks.

According to the 2022 University of Iowa Campus Climate Survey, the majority of students who responded still feel that the university has a long way to go to eradicate the biases that negatively affect student’s mental health, work performance, and that allowed for the microaggressions that made some consider leaving the UI altogether.

According to scholar and educator Lee Anne Bell, “oppressive conditions become normalized through the actions of people going about their daily lives and often can’t be isolated to individual or institutional agents”.

The UI needs to improve its environment to make minority students feel safe and able to thrive. To begin this transformation, the university should begin to require mandatory social justice courses that promote tolerance and make these mandatory for all students to graduate.

The UI already requires students to take a course with a diversity and inclusion prerequisite to graduate, which is a step in the right direction. What the university should do now is require specific courses that focus on the history and present day state of oppression and marginalization in all facets of society, and how it affects those marginalized groups.

Discrimination is the result of large groups refusing to acknowledge the large disadvantages many peers face daily. Social justice courses promote empathy and appreciation for diversity which is the goal of the DEI department.

If one truly wants to address the topic of injustice at the UI, the first step should be to acknowledge differences such as race, ethnic heritage, class, age, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, and nationality. As Bell writes, “Without recognizing and valuing diversity, we cannot effectively address issues of injustice.”

For those who truly care about social justice or even about being a more understanding person, the journey of educating yourself on issues such as racism, classism, and accessibility can seem overwhelming and, in some cases, impossible. Learning about the ways that you participate in discriminatory practices and challenging your core beliefs is not for the weak.

Despite the real and valid difficulties involving educating yourself on social justice issues, having a professor who has dedicated a significant portion of their life to understanding social issues makes the heavy load increasingly lighter for those experiencing discrimination, and for those learning about it.

Courses such as SJUS:1001 Introduction to Social Justice and SJUS:2000 Theories of Social Justice are meant to orient students toward the major conceptual areas that constitute social justice. Hopefully, through students consuming concrete knowledge of various people’s histories, experiences, etc., the university could become a place of true equality and belonging for all.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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About the Contributor
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.