Most people agree that justice is a universal good. Yet perspectives and definitions vary. Some focus on equality or equity; on process or outcome; on rights, virtue, property, merit, or need; on retaliating, reconciling, or restoring; on crime, conflict, privilege, or power. These views all contain a spool of truth.
Common to them all is a social thread of justice intersecting and weaving the warp and woof of communities. The Sutton School’s social justice program uses the tools of social science to explore the golden threads of justice in the labyrinth of human affairs. In this spooling, our faith calls us to defend the dignity and well-being of all people and the world in which we live.
Some people fear the study of social justice, seeing cause for alarm. Yet scripture and our American tradition call us to give clear and careful attention to concerns related to the poor, the disadvantaged, the stranger. Both the Old and New Testament express social concerns. Amos, seeing a culture that kept the rich rich and the poor poor, stood before the worship music of his day and condemned it as noise, calling his people to let justice flow like a rushing river. Micah called out the powerful of his day for creating a society that swallowed up the disadvantaged, demanding that those who would hear his message throw off privilege and walk humbly in justice and mercy. Jesus Himself addressed not only the good news He embodied but also the political, social, and racial issues faced in His day by the violated, the oppressed, the other. Paul carried forward these concerns. Social justice is a Christian tapestry not a political platform.
Liberty is America’s first shout. Yet inherent in our three founding documents are social justice concerns. The Founders—echoing Aristotle, Cicero, Sidney, and Locke—expressed in the Declaration of Independence an equality and a justice founded on the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The Framers of the U.S. Constitution made justice the first necessity. Justice came before internal peace, military might, economic prowess, or individual liberty. The third document? The Gettysburg Address, where President Lincoln calls us to a rebirth of freedom and justice to ensure that democracy and liberty never perish from the Earth. Even that johnny-come-lately Pledge of Allegiance, first penned in 1892 by a Baptist minister, promises fealty to a country that offers liberty and justice to all. Social justice is a thread binding the wounds, the hopes, the dreams of a nation yearning to breathe free.
Rehearsing the Christian and national roots of social concerns can (rightly) arouse anointing passion. Yet we need a cooler hand to thread life’s shuttle. When chatter overpowers reason, our students need a data-driven loom to produce a coherent fabric. We hone empirical tools, survey political landscapes, and seek insights into historical change. We frame it all within our Christian tradition. We explore and address crime, discrimination, hatred, human trafficking, legal systems, migration, our environment, racism, war, and, sadly, so much more. Come, let us reason and work together.
Social justice studies major (B.A.): Ouachita’s Social Justice program requires a minimum of 45 hours ranging across an array of disciplines. Though a social justice degree requires a minor from among the programs offered at Ouachita, we strongly encourage students to choose a second major. Within the Social Justice Program, a structured, interdisciplinary scaffold allows students to choose their own paths:
Tools: Choose a minimum of one course from the following—PSCI 2023; PSYC 2054 / SOCI 2034; OR SOCI 2053.
Historical Roots: Choose a minimum of one course from the following—HIST 3003, 3013, 3053, 3233, 3433, 3493, 3563; OR SPAN 4133. Historical Frames: Choose a minimum of two courses from the following—HIST 3023, 3073, 3243, 3313, 3353, 3443, 3453, 3543; BIOL 3023; ENGL 3703-3793; OR SPAN 4003.
Social Factors: Choose a minimum of two courses from the following—PSYC 3013/SOCI 3013, SOCI 3023, 3043, 4053, 4083, 4103; OR BIOL 3663.
Political Roots: Choose a minimum of one course from the following—PSCI 3033, 3043, 3073, 4033, 4043; OR NSCI 3202.
Political Frames: Choose a minimum of two courses from the following—HIST 3063; PSCI 1123, 3080/3083/3091(all), 4063, 4123, OR 4133.
Broadening: CORE 2053 (or equivalent); ENGL 3003; SSCI 4601; 120 TranServe hours; AND Practicum —choose one from SJUS 4901 OR SJUS 4902 OR a full-semester OBU study-abroad experience OR an additional 100 TranServe hours. The final Social Justice practicum (regardless of venue) requires the compilation of a Sutton-School approved portfolio depicting at least three, varied social justice projects. Oversight of the portfolio occurs either in conjunction with SJUS 4901 or 4902 or through the academic advisor in consultation with the dean’s office.