Lender Center for Social Justice appoints new director
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The Lender’s Center for Social Justice, which will operate under new management next fall, hopes to better engage students in social justice.
James Haywood Rolling, who is a professor in the School of Education and the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, will replace Marcelle Haddix, the center’s current co-director. He will serve as co-director of the center for three years alongside Kendall Philips, co-director since 2018.
The center, which is hosted at the School of Education, hosts events and offers scholarships that promote interdisciplinary approaches on issues related to social justice, equity and inclusion in SU.
Politicizing social issues is problematic, Rolling said.
“There is nothing partisan about ensuring the welfare and safety of those to my left and right,” Rolling said. “Everyone benefits when neither of us hits or gets hurt. By approaching social justice from the perspective of looking out for one another, I disarm the zero-sum political claim that taking care of another means taking something away from you.
Since its inception, the Lender Center has focused on global issues of injustice. But he’s also prioritizing discussions of these large-scale issues in the context of the SU campus, Phillips said. The center is charged with engaging the League community in conversations that will fight a narrative of give and take around social justice, he said.
Inciting uncomfortable conversations is a top priority for the center, Philips said.
In 2019, the center partnered with The Greenberg House to host “Difficult Memories,” a speaker series that covered the history of racism, such as the Confederate Statues Controversy. Phillips said the event included many types of conversations the center hopes to spark in the future.
Reflecting on the past, he and Rolling will teach him how to best cultivate justice in the League in the future, Philips said.
“As we face many difficult issues and tragic cases of injustice, a college campus should be a place where we seek the possibilities of a new and fairer future,” said Philips. “It should be a robust, interdisciplinary conversation, and it should be a conversation marked by dynamic energy and optimism.”
Joanna Masingila, Dean of School Education, said the center must stick to its four main pillars – human rights, access, participation and equity for all – to create change in Syracuse.
There is nothing partisan about ensuring the well-being and safety of people to my left and right
James Haywood Rolling, Director of the Lender Center
“It means having these pillars at the forefront of everything we do: learning, teaching, advising, communicating, participating in any way with any part of the university,” Masingila said.
Rolling said he was often struck by the disrespect that comes with conversations about the breed. When those talks turn into “you’re racist” accusations and “I’m not racist” rebuttals, they lose their value, Rolling said.
Conversations must be about how society has replicated racist structures, relationships and outcomes – and will continue to do so until those in power at the local level take action to create the change. Rolling said the center needs to work to fix the system that creates problems rather than just the problems.
“I’m just pointing out that the chicken comes before the egg,” he said.
The center is expanding its Lender Scholarship project, which brings together a group of students to work with a faculty member on a given topic related to social justice. Philips said such initiatives will help community members engage in real, meaningful and honest conversations about social justice.
“I was born and raised in communities heavily impacted by the very social judges that the Lender Center is about to deal with,” Rolling said. “For this reason, my commitment to the mission of the Lender Center is not only professional. It’s personal.”
Posted Mar 22, 2021 11:37 p.m.