Please read the case study below and then answer the following questions in 250 words or less. Students for J
Please read the case study below and then answer the following questions in 250 words or less.
Students for Justice & Equity (SJE) is a student-led organization dedicated to promoting DEI at a graduate school of social work on the East Coast of the US. The group is composed of 15 members from a diverse set of backgrounds, majority POC, majority women. SJE met weekly as a group and held advocacy and dialogue programs in collaboration with the DEI office of the school.
In March of 2020, amid the Covid 19 pandemic, the school of social work decided to move all classes online. There was a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety and pain among students. Many of the students found themselves navigating loss of community, unexpected changes in living situations, and the complexity of the moment.
Amid this decision and the uncertainty of the transition off-campus, the group found themselves grappling with what to do. SJE had existed for half a decade, but all 15 members were new that year. There were already divisions of perspective: those who wanted the group to ask questions about the purpose of their work, their relationship to authority, norms of conduct; and those who wanted to focus on creating programs and initiatives that faced externally to the student community.
Three members decided to create online events for community building during this moment of change and distancing. These events focused on dance parties, meditation, and informal gatherings with faculty. These members were, ironically, those who had been more set on asking large questions.
The head of the DEI office for the school, a man of color, overworked and facing many challenges like everyone else, encouraged the group to proceed, and the programs were quickly announced.
In the next meeting of the SJE there was conflict and anger. The 3 members were heavily criticized for not running the idea by the group. No clear norms had been set for starting initiatives and this had caused tension throughout the year. Additionally, the initiatives were seen as too soft and too in line with the school’s mission. There were concerns that marginalized students might not get the full support they needed, and that this did not attend to the real implications of the pandemic and the transition off-campus.
The group of members who had planned the events defended themselves. There was lots of anger and accusations from both sides—critiques that these members had been the ones preventing programs and initiatives from moving forward in the first place. The members argued that a lack of cohesion and commitment to the work had created barriers to action and that they were justified in moving forward as they had.
While much of the conflict was centered on a difference of opinion on what the best approach to supporting their peers was—through healing community spaces versus through direct action, political education, or mutual aid—there were tensions and dynamics from the year of working together that emerged as they fought. A number of members were silent during this conflict. They too were criticized for being silent in the debate.
Over the remaining few weeks, the weekly meetings were tense and unproductive. Individual members sought advice from faculty and the DEI office head, but tensions persisted. Many of the members moved forward with their own individual initiatives or worked in smaller divided groups. The programming that the SJE delivered in the final months of the academic year, all completed virtually, was much more robust than prior to this conflict, but conversations around internal purpose of their work, norms of conduct, and other formerly salient topics were never revisited.
1. With the limited data, try to diagnose the problem the group is facing. What do you see as the main challenge(s) they face, and what might have caused it?
2. Imagine yourself as a member of this organization. What steps might you take to address the challenge(s) you have diagnosed?
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