The university will be discontinuing the Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence (PAX) Studies and Social Justice and Social Policy (SJSP) minors starting in the Fall 2022 semester, according to an email obtained by The Hoot.
“Two social justice minors have been killed,” wrote Professor Gordon Fellman (SOC/ WGS), Program Chair of the PAX minor, in an email interview with The Hoot.
Fellman explained that the department’s difficulties in appointing successors to head the programs after the departure of program chairs may have contributed to the decision to close the minors. According to Fellman, “ the university could have worked to continue (and even combine) the two programs, it seems to have decided to end programs without large enrollments and committed leadership,” he wrote.
According to the PAX minor’s page on the university’s website, the program began in 1984. It was named the PAX program after the Latin word for “peace,” and its focus was on the Cold War and nuclear politics. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the program expanded its focus to, “a more universal study of coexistence and conflict resolution” and was renamed Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies, though it is still referred to as the PAX minor, according to the page.
“At a time when violence is increasing in our society and the world as a whole, it seems to me PAX and SJSP offer much of crucial value to students and to Brandeis education,” wrote Fellman.
The minor includes courses related to non-violence and group conflict resolution from a variety of departments, according to the page. It also had two of its own classes, PAX 120B- Inner Peace and Outer Peace and PAX 160A- Stopping War: Analyzing Anti-War Movements.
Fellman wrote to The Hoot that despite his efforts to raise money for courses such as Inner and Outer Peace and Nonviolence in Theory and Practice, those courses will no longer be offered at the university next year. “The university has shown zero interest in keeping them going and some senior administrators may well not even know what they are about,” wrote Fellman.
A contributing factor to the downfall of the minors, according to Fellman, is that no successor was groomed to take over the position as head of the minor. Fellman wrote that he ”made the huge mistake of not grooming a successor to head PAX after my retirement.” For the SJSP minor a similar situation occurred, Fellman explained, as one SJSP head left the university years ago, and his successor to follow him had “gone on to something else,” he wrote.
The SJSP minor, according to its page on the university’s webpage, “provides a common place for students in all disciplines to engage with issues of justice and equity.” It also encourages students to “explore policy areas in concrete detail, focused variously on particular groups (children, the elderly, people with disabilities), or particular services (healthcare, income support).”
The minor consists of a core course in Social Justice and Social Policy, as well as electives in the categories of Dynamics of Discrimination and Inequality, Historical and Comparative Perspectives on Social Justice, Diversity and Difference: Cultural Practice, and Social Justice in Action: Policy Approaches to Social Problems.
The SJSP minor “does not seek to promote a particular ideological agenda, but rather to spark creative thinking about complex social problems. It carries the search for norms and principles into the wider arena of practical experience,” according to its university page.
“The killing of the programs suggests classic bureaucratic top-heaviness and indifference to other than bottom-line considerations when a program may need reorganizing, not burial…This opens the question, is social justice anything more than a marketing slogan for Brandeis? If not just that, why not figure out how to keep those programs going? It’s not a hard task,” wrote Fellman to The Hoot.
Alumni of the PAX minor have gone on to work at various organizations, according to their webpage. Forsan Hussein ’00 is the co-founder of Zaitoun Ventures—an investment firm that is affiliated with Invest In Peace. Alumna Lindsay Mitnik ’16 has become a campus organizer at PIRG Campus Action—an organization that unites students to be the action for change.
Recent internships sponsored by the SJSP minor include at the Legal Aid Society, in their Immigration Law Unit and at the African Refugee Development Center in Tel Aviv, Israel as a Higher Education Caseworker, according to their page.