May 18, 2024
Social Justice in Higher Education

Social Justice in Higher Education

Race relations in America continue to be a source of increased tension, dialogue, and initiatives. As a result, institutions of higher education acknowledge that they are having to shift their expectations to address social justice and inequality. They are also investing in new programming.

However, the issue is a worldwide one. In 2008, the United Nations declared February 20th the annual World Day of Social Justice and Johnson and Cunningham (2020) assert that the day itself can be used as a teaching tool for undergraduate students. Others have advocated for a social justice framework to be implemented throughout schools. Alvarez (2019) makes the connection between social justice, teaching, and educational leadership clear.

Meanwhile, Raffaghelli (2020) explored nine initiatives in higher education aimed at developing the literacies to deal with data in society particularly as a catalyst for social justice. The author concludes that initiatives are fragmented in responding to the need of promoting social justice in a context of datafication (Raffaghelli, 2020).

D’Enbeau, Mesmer, and Socha (2020) provide a case study of a university residence services department’s attempts to institutionalize social justice showing how organizational members’ social justice talk can affect organizational social justice outcomes. The strategies used within the case study (delegating responsibility for promoting social justice to some members, associating social justice only with promoting diversity, narrowing the scope of members’ social justice action, and rationalizing that the organization) worked together to restrict social justice activism in this organization to outcomes associated with mainstreaming social justice.


Do you think that higher education institutions should be investing in social justice programs and adopting a social justice framework?


Social justice, higher education, race, equity, diversity, inclusion, belongingness, critical thinking


Alvarez, B., (2019, Jan. 22). Why social justice in school matters. NEA Today. Retrieved from

D’Enbeau, S., Mesmer, K., & Socha, D.  (2020): Discursive strategies and dilemmas of institutionalizing social justice in a higher education setting, Western Journal ofCommunication, DOI: 10.1080/10570314.2020.1798496

Johnson, H., & Cunningham, E. (2020). The day of social justice: a creative approach to teaching activism in higher education. In E. Tilley (Ed.), Creative Activism: Research, Pedagogy and Practice Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Raffaghelli, J.E. (2020). Is data literacy a catalyst of social justice? A response from nine data literacy initiatives in higher education. Education Sciences, 10(9), 233-253. doi: 10.3390/educsci10090233

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