Faculty Roundtable: What Social Justice Initiative Means the Most to You?

From Black Lives Matter to Rethinking Schools, faculty talk about civic activism platforms.

Fayek Tasneem Khan | Moment | Getty images

Faculty Roundtable: What Social Justice Initiative Means the Most to You?

From Black Lives Matter to Rethinking Schools, faculty talk about civic activism platforms.

Frank Hernandez
College of Education

The social justice initiative that I used as a K-12 classroom teacher (back in the early 1990s) and still use today when I’m working with K-12 teachers is Rethinking Schools. At the time I started teaching, I was searching for social justice teaching materials, and Rethinking Schools provided me with the resources that offered counter-stories to the stories I would often find in my corporate-produced classroom textbooks. Rethinking Schools publications provide teachers with practical and innovative ways to integrate equity and justice into the curriculum and offer examples of how students’ lived experiences, knowledge and values can be grounded in their learning.

Wendy Williams
Associate Professor of Professional Practice
John V. Roach Honors College

I support the Black Lives Matter movement because, in my opinion, racism is the greatest scourge of our society. We continue to disenfranchise and dehumanize African Americans. We must end the violence and the shame of white supremacy. We must affirm the lives of African Americans. The fact that “Black Lives Matter” is a controversial statement is testament to the fact that we have a long way to go.

Stacie McCormick

Associate Professor of English and
Co-Director of African American and Africana Studies
School of Interdisciplinary Studies and
AddRan College of Liberal Arts

Black Lives Matter and reproductive justice are intertwined and are deeply important to the work of making a more just world. Both platforms call attention to the ongoing ways Black life is imperiled due to systemic inequalities that remain insufficiently addressed. These platforms call us to action to bridge the gap between the ideals we often support in the abstract (human equality, justice, peace) and the enactment of these values in our lives and communities. I am particularly compelled and inspired by their advocacy for the most vulnerable in our society. Their work declares that until all of us are free, none of us are free.

David Allen
Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and
Luther Henderson Chair in Management and Leadership
Neeley School of Business

One that is near and dear to my heart personally and professionally is inclusive excellence, fostering opportunities for success for everyone. My privileged position as a faculty member and a leader in a great business school requires a focus on leveraging diverse and even competing perspectives to create an inclusive environment where we can educate the next generation of culturally competent leaders to be a force for good in business and society. 

Richard Allen

Professor of Film, Television and Digital Media
Bob Schieffer College of Communication

Growing up in the 1960s, the civil rights movement — with its activism and nonviolent protests — made an indelible impression on me and inspired my support for those who courageously strive for equal rights and justice. As my own three children have grown to adulthood, leading proud LGBTQ lives, I have strived to advocate for and support any policy, platform or movement that will make the world a safer, more welcoming space for people of any gender or sexual orientation, as well as every race and religion. My son Jeremy is gay, my daughter Emily is bisexual and my son Preston is transgender. They have the complete and unflagging support of my wife and our family. But they have helped me see the painful challenges faced by LGBTQ kids who don’t have that level of support, acceptance and unconditional love. So in the past decade, being an ally to the courageous and loving LGBTQ community has become one of the most profoundly important roles I play in my life.

Emily Lund
Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Associate Dean for Research
Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences

In line with my clinical background as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, I find I am drawn to causes that advocate for the interests of children who are under the protective care of the courts. To that end, I have volunteered as a court appointed special advocate since 2018. My PhD mentor helped me to understand how language differences and communication disorders, particularly those that are hard to diagnose, interact with the court system — and not always in a positive way. It is important to me to use my background related to communication disorders to make sure that children always have a voice in the direction that their lives take and are not judged by their style of communication.

Ronald G. Burns
Professor and Chair of Criminal Justice
AddRan College of Liberal Arts

I am currently most interested in continued criminal justice reform in terms of ensuring that all people caught up in our justice systems are treated equally. Among other concerns in our justice systems, the use of fines as a sanction and financial bail for pretrial release have disparate impacts on people from different socioeconomic groups. Compared to other groups, the poor are impacted more heavily by the use of fines and are less likely to be released from jail when taken into custody and awaiting trial. There are related concerns regarding the quality of indigent defense. The differential treatment of some groups seems problematic in a criminal justice system.

Timothy Barth
Professor of Psychology and
Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
College of Science & Engineering

Social justice initiatives that provide Americans with civics education and easy access to voting are very important to me. The strength of our democracy depends on citizens having a deep understanding of the moral foundations of our governmental institutions and the opportunity to freely participate in the election of our political leaders. Quotes from two former presidents capture my intellectual passion for these goals. President Thomas Jefferson once said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people … they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” In a similar vein, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” My deep belief in education and my passion for social justice led me to help the community where I live, North Richland Hills, Texas, develop a successful seven-week course called Citizens Civic Academy, available free to our community of 75,000 for the past eight years.

Kalee Appleton
Assistant Professor of Art
College of Fine Arts

Unfortunately, the nation and the world are fraught with a number of social injustices and public concerns. It’s close to impossible to choose one that is most dire. I have observed clear and blatant racism that needs to be ended immediately, and I have personally experienced discrimination due to my gender. On any given day, with the changing headlines of the news, I can easily change my mind on which is most problematic and heartbreaking. With this being said, the civic issue that terrifies me the most is climate change. The effect of climate change is already quite evident despite what some may believe. Hurricanes are more powerful, heat waves are hotter, and the melting ice caps are causing sea levels to rise. Scientists have forecast further changes in the state of the climate that have far-reaching influence on generations to come. What is more tragic, and startling, is the complete disregard for the future of the Earth and the ramifications that future generations will have to endure. While this issue is too complicated for a few to solve, there are small things that we can do to help. Support legislation that aims to protect the environment and slow the effects of climate change and consider how the decisions in your life might lessen the problem.

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