Universities and Slavery: Bound by History

bound_by_history_340px

On March 3, 2017, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study will host Universities and Slavery: Bound by History. It is a conference that explores the relationship between slavery and universities, across the country and around the world. For more information, click the link: https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/event/2017-universities-and-slavery-conference.

Advertisements

Harvard Kennedy School Conference on Poverty and Inequality

The Systemic Justice Project is co-sponsoring the Harvard Kennedy School Conference on Poverty and Inequality. For more information, see below:

16684137_926465177489252_3972013521660978956_n

On behalf of our conference planning committee, we’d like to invite you to the Conference on Poverty & Inequality. In light of the recent election, our theme is Tackling Poverty & Inequality under a Trump Presidency. We hope to highlight the deep economic anxieties that surfaced across the US in the 2016 election. The conference is Saturday, February 25 at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Registration is now open ($15 for students; $30 for non-students). Please register, connect with us on Facebook, and visit our website for more information.

Speeches and panel discussions will cover a range of topics, like affordable housing, early childhood development, K-12 education, and extreme poverty/joblessness.We have some exceptional speakers confirmed, including:

  • Dennis Kucinich, Progressive Advocate, Former Eight-Term US Congressman, and Two-Time Candidate in the Democratic Presidential Primary
  • Daniel Gillion, University of Pennsylvania Presidential Associate Professor and author of Governing with Words: The Political Dialogue on Race, Public Policy, and Inequality in America
  • Portia Wu, Former Assistant Secretary of ETA at the US Department of Labor
  • David Ellwood, Former Kennedy School Dean and Former Co-Chair of President Clinton’s Working Group on Welfare Reform
  • Melissa Boteach, Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress
  • Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute
  • Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Education Secretary
  • Thomas Kochan, MIT Professor and Co-Director of MIT Sloan’s Institute for Work and Employment Research
  • Maria Mossaides, Child Advocate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Carol C. Buris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education Foundation
  • Amy Glasmeier, MIT Economist & Creator of the Living Wage Calculator
  • William Beardslee, Distinguished Gardner/Monks Professor of Child Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Baer Prevention Initiatives, Department of Psychiatry, Children’s Hospital Boston

If you have any questions or would like your student group recognized in our program materials for “joining the conversation,” please email Ben Mays (Conference Co-Chair) at Ben_Mays@hks17.harvard.edu. We look forward to seeing you there!

J-Term Course: Practicing Systemic Justice

sjsummit_black-1

A Note for Harvard Students:

We stand at a pivotal moment for lawyers and others concerned with justice. Public interest lawyers from around the country are gathering at HLS in January to identify new challenges and possible solutions, and to find out how HLS students can help them unite and collaborate more effectively.

If you want to play a part and want to work with experts from the clinical faculty on the cutting edge of policy problems, preparing action plans in conjunction with summit attendees, see the announcement below, and email us by noon on Friday December 23rd to be assured of a place.

Practicing Systemic Justice in the United States: A Working Lab

 Professors Tyler Giannini and Jon Hanson would like to announce a new Winter Term course in conjunction with multiple clinical faculty. In the past few weeks, we have had discussions with many students interested in using their legal education to understand and practically address injustices that they identify in the United States and its legal and political system.

Practicing Systemic Justice in the United States: A Working Lab seeks to develop a new way of approaching societal injustices by exploring the practice and history of struggle and applying it to contemporary problems. In conjunction with expert advisors, student teams will work to draft reports and other materials on pressing policy problems such as immigration, food, housing, technology, criminal justice, corporate responsibility, and climate change. Expert advisors will include faculty members Sabrineh Ardalan, Christopher Bavitz, Emily Broad Leib, Esme Caramello, and Philip Torrey. Students will participate in the selection of “problems” to address, will help identify a variety of relevant experts, stakeholders, and groups facing injustice as part of researching the problem, and will coordinate and participate in drafting collaborative proposals and action plans.

Projects from the Working Lab will be taken up by Spring courses including the Justice Lab, which is still open for enrollment.

Practicing Systemic Justice will be designed around the Systemic Justice Summit on January 14-15. Please see more information at https://systemicjusticesummit.com/

If you are interested in participating, please email giannini@law.harvard.edu, hanson@law.harvard.edu, and jlipton@law.harvard.edu (and include the words “Practicing Systemic Justice” in the subject line) so we can give you further details and make you eligible for enrollment. The Lab takes a cross-disciplinary approach, and we also encourage cross-registrants.

Systemic Justice Project 2017 Update

SJP Blog Logo

We at the Systemic Justice Project have been working hard and wanted to update you on our plans for the first half of 2017, which include a new Winter Term course in addition to Systemic Justice and the Justice Lab in the Spring, all of which are open for enrollment, including cross-registrants (please see details on the individual course pages, links below).

1.       Winter Term Course: We are going to be offering a new winter term course, co-taught with Tyler Giannini, and including expert advisors from the Clinical Faculty. Practicing Systemic Justice in the United States: A Working Lab, seeks to develop a new way of approaching societal injustices by exploring the practice and history of struggle and applying it to contemporary problems. In conjunction with expert advisors, student teams will work to develop materials and plans for the Systemic Justice Summit (see below) and prepare reports, analysis, and action plans for key stakeholders on pressing policy problems such as immigration, food, housing, technology, criminal justice, corporate responsibility, and climate change.

 2.       Systemic Justice Summit: On January 14-15, we will be hosting a Systemic Justice Summit that will bring together justice-minded lawyers and nonlawyers engaged with the legal system to discuss new priorities, strategies, cases, and opportunities for collaboration on a wide range of issues. The summit will focus on both the new urgent challenges facing especially vulnerable groups and the continued urgent need for a new way of thinking about the law and the legal profession — one that places social justice at its core and works to find sustainable, deep solutions and institutions. Students from the Practicing Systemic Justice Course, and other interested students, will participate in planning and facilitating the summit.

 3.       Spring Justice Lab and Systemic Justice Course: The Spring Justice Lab, and some students in the Systemic Justice course, will take up some of the projects that come out of the Systemic Justice Summit and the Practicing Systemic Justice course, in addition to developing new projects and collaborations. We are set to have our largest Justice Lab ever, but are still open for further enrollment, including from cross-registrants.

 4.       Systemic Justice Conference: The third annual Systemic Justice Conference will be April 7-9. As always, it will feature students from the Justice Lab and the Systemic Justice course presenting their projects, including collaborations arising out of the summit.

Systemic Justice Summit

systemic justice summit

2017 Systemic Justice Summit
New Priorities, New Strategies, New Collaborations

January 14 – 15, 2017, Harvard Law School

The Systemic Justice Project will be hosting a summit that will bring together justice-minded lawyers and nonlawyers engaged with the legal system to discuss priorities, strategies, cases, and opportunities for collaboration on a wide range of issues — from immigration and climate change to racial, gender, and economic justice.

Please find more information at systemicjusticesummit.com.  If you are interested in attending but have not received an invitation, please contact us via this link.

The Justice Lab – Spring 2017

scales_of_justice

Announcement to HLS Students

In the past week we have heard from many students, lawyers, alums, and others looking for ways to respond to the longstanding and immediate crises in our country and our world.

The Systemic Justice Project was created to give students the opportunity to work on pressing policy problems in collaboration with lawyers, academics, legislators, organizers, and activists engaging those issues. The goal has been to understand the complex causes and interconnections of our problems and to develop innovative, systemic solutions.

This work has rarely been more urgent. We therefore invite all students who wish to devote curricular time to the injustices that have always been with us and the renewed injustices on the horizon to contact us and enroll in the spring Justice Lab from which prerequisites have been removed (Wednesdays 5:15 – 7:15pm).

We have some ideas for the road ahead, and we know you do too. We want to hear your suggestions and may be able to provide some structure, support, curricular credit, and an audience for any efforts you may already be planning.

We hope to host problem-identification and priority-setting events with our network of lawyers, legislators, and organizers in January to help inform our work in the spring, keeping in mind the need to fight fires and develop fireproof systems simultaneously. We will use the spring semester’s Justice Lab (and to a lesser extent, the Systemic Justice course) to put law students at the center of a network of concerned lawyers (and nonlawyers) to develop and propose legal and policy solutions to systemic injustices.

To join us in the Justice Lab — that is, to be made eligible for enrollment — or for more information, email jlipton@law.harvard.edu and hanson@law.harvard.edu and include the words Justice Lab in the subject line. For those of you who want to start work before the spring semester contact us as soon as possible. Plans are underway and we would welcome your involvement.

The Justice Lab – Spring 2017

scales_of_justice

Announcement to HLS Students

In the past week we have heard from many students, lawyers, alums, and others looking for ways to respond to the longstanding and immediate crises in our country and our world.

The Systemic Justice Project was created to give students the opportunity to work on pressing policy problems in collaboration with lawyers, academics, legislators, organizers, and activists engaging those issues. The goal has been to understand the complex causes and interconnections of our problems and to develop innovative, systemic solutions.

This work has rarely been more urgent. We therefore invite all students who wish to devote curricular time to the injustices that have always been with us and the renewed injustices on the horizon to contact us and enroll in the spring Justice Lab from which prerequisites have been removed (Wednesdays 5:15 – 7:15pm).

We have some ideas for the road ahead, and we know you do too. We want to hear your suggestions and may be able to provide some structure, support, curricular credit, and an audience for any efforts you may already be planning.

We hope to host problem-identification and priority-setting events with our network of lawyers, legislators, and organizers in January to help inform our work in the spring, keeping in mind the need to fight fires and develop fireproof systems simultaneously. We will use the spring semester’s Justice Lab (and to a lesser extent, the Systemic Justice course) to put law students at the center of a network of concerned lawyers (and nonlawyers) to develop and propose legal and policy solutions to systemic injustices.

To join us in the Justice Lab — that is, to be made eligible for enrollment — or for more information, email jlipton@law.harvard.edu and hanson@law.harvard.edu and include the words Justice Lab in the subject line. For those of you who want to start work before the spring semester contact us as soon as possible. Plans are underway and we would welcome your involvement.

Historic Settlement in Jennings

Great news from two friends of the Systemic Justice Project:

A small city bordering Ferguson, Mo., has agreed to pay $4.7 million to compensate nearly 2,000 people who spent time in the city’s jail for not paying fines and fees related to traffic and other relatively petty violations.

Alec explains the systemic place of this litigation:

“This historic settlement is part of a national movement to change how indifferent we’ve become to putting human beings in cages, and to end the notion that courts can be used as tools of revenue generation rather than places of justice,” said Alec Karakatsanis, whose Washington-based nonprofit organization, Equal Justice Under Law, brought the suit with the Arch City Defenders, a Missouri nonprofit group, and the St. Louis University School of Law.

See the full New York Times story here.

Why blaming the homeless makes people feel better

Homeless teenage boy and girl

Systemic Justice Project friend, Jay Willis, has recently been writing with insight and wit about the problem of homelessness.  This week, he published the following op-ed in Crosscut

***

In Seattle, the recent explosion in homelessness has transformed the issue into a public emergency, demanding immediate, large-scale intervention. But as the estimated price tags of policy proposals grow, the angry backlash against the city’s homeless residents has intensified. Today, it’s rare to see an opinion on how to address the ongoing crisis that doesn’t make extensive use of the CAPS LOCK key.

Why do people sometimes respond so negatively to those living in crippling poverty? There are a few simple, well-studied psychological strategies that people use to alleviate their inherent unease when confronted with severe inequality. Learning to better understand these unconscious thought processes can foster greater empathy, encourage realistic thinking about the issue, and spur progress toward meaningful solutions.

To illustrate, let’s use reactions to an op-ed I wrote in the Seattle Times last month. In it, I argued that when the city conducts a “sweep” to clear homeless encampments, it’s prohibited from unreasonably seizing and destroying residents’ personal possessions. Although Seattle can regulate its streets, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply only to people who can afford rent.

I know that the first rule of writing on the Internet is to never read the comments. But the responses were interesting, as they so neatly showcase one way homelessness is explained away as an unfortunate yet acceptable fact of city life. Consider, as some commenters did, the idea that it’s okay to not help homeless people, because they like being homeless.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 9.52.44 PMThe psychologist Melvin Lerner calls this thought process the “Just World Theory”: people prefer to think that they live in a fair, equitable society, and will find ways to view the world as such—even when it requires logical gymnastics to do so.

Do so many of us really think that Seattle’s thousands of homeless residents prefer it that way? When I’ve been able to speak with those who live in The Jungle, not one person expressed any fondness toward spending their nights in five decades worth of blackened highway runoff. But it’s deeply distressing to accept the alternative: that our society freely tolerates human suffering, and that the benefits of the most prosperous period in the region’s history so cleanly elude its most vulnerable residents.

So we do as all self-respecting Seattleites do after each promising Mariners spring that flames out by September: we rationalize, constructing a narrative that explains inequality as the consequence of choices made by free-willed individuals, rather than as a sign of serious societal problems that we are obligated to fix. Reasoning that unsheltered people like living under a freeway — no matter how absurd this is once you stop to think about it — makes this state of affairs much easier to accept.

Others choose to view Seattle’s homeless residents through the “Blame Frame,” a term coined by Jon and Kathleen Hanson. The idea goes like this: when talking about members of our own social group, we tend to attribute good outcomes to having good character. People “like us” succeed because they work hard, put in effort, and happily see it all pay off.

However, when something bad befalls people we consider similar to us, we are quick to explain and exonerate. Something beyond their control—a smart investment gone bad, an employer that went under, the market tanking at just the wrong time—is to blame. “He’s a good guy,” we might say. “Just had some bad luck is all.” After all, we know what kind of person they really are: a good one! Through hard work, they’ll be back on their feet in no time.

We do not afford this same benefit of the doubt to the disadvantaged. Instead, when confronted with bad outcomes experienced by members of other social groups, we blame those people’s inherent character flaws. Just as good people deserve good outcomes, bad people deserve their lot in life, too. “Homeless people do not deserve help because they are lazy drug addicts. They don’t want to work. They have no one to blame but themselves.” Or as two creatively-named commenters put it:

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 9.53.10 PMSeattleites complain all the time about rising housing costs and the region’s ever-shifting job market. But even as people bemoan the role of these phenomena in their own lives, when it comes to the rise in homelessness, they often won’t connect these issues to it. This is an insidious double standard. By relieving the inclination to develop a nuanced understanding of the plight of Seattle’s homeless residents, the Blame Frame allows us to feel little responsibility to help those who need it.

If all this seems intensely depressing, I present to you a case for hope.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 9.53.23 PM

This is a valiant attempt to resolve difficult, conflicting emotions. (Is it you? If so, email me, and I’ll buy you a drink.) The author first tacks to the concepts outlined above, asserting that homeless people who “like their way of living” do not “deserve” help. But just a few lines later, they acknowledge an important tension: they do want to help those who are homeless due to “bad luck.”

This person recognizes that so much more probably goes into homelessness than any one individual’s decisions. And like many of us, he or she is trying to work these dissonant feelings out.

To be clear: the psychological concepts presented here are natural and unconscious. This means that no one — including you or me — is a malevolent person for sometimes wondering if homelessness is a lifestyle choice, or for wanting to blame the homeless for their own misfortune. But acknowledging how our reactions to complex social problems fail to capture all sides of the story is a critical missing step in Seattle’s discourse on homelessness.

By better understanding what goes on in our own heads, we can help foster more critical thinking about what causes homelessness, and, just maybe, how best to solve it.

***

See related articles: