Center for "Race," Culture and Social Justice Hofstra Magazine

New Center for “Race”, Culture and Social Justice

During the spring 2017 semester, Hofstra launched the Center for “Race,” Culture and Social Justice to promote diversity and cultural awareness in faculty hiring, curriculum, and professional development.

“Diversity is one of Hofstra’s core values, and this effort recognizes and builds on our commitment to it,” said President Stuart Rabinowitz. “Embracing diversity and cultural understanding is not a static goal; it is a process that should evolve and change as we learn more about each other. This center will provide the focus and resources necessary to do that.”

The center drew a full house for its inaugural event last March, a talk by attorney Gloria Browne-Marshall, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of the 2016 book The Voting Rights War: The NAACP and the Ongoing Struggle for Justice.

Her talk, “Forging a More Inclusive Campus in a Conflicted Country: Navigating ‘Race,’ Diversity and Social Justice,” encouraged the campus community to support the center and its mission.

The center falls under the auspices of the Provost’s Office. Dr. Jonathan Lightfoot, associate professor of teaching, learning and technology, serves as the center’s director. Dr. Benita Sampedro Vizcaya, associate professor of romance languages and literatures, and Dr. Santiago Slabodsky, associate professor of religion and the Florence and Robert Kaufman Chair in Jewish Studies, serve as the center’s associate directors.

“We want to make certain that the entire Hofstra community is on the same page when it comes to issues of diversity,” said Dr. Lightfoot. Among the center’s goals are:

  • To expand the demographic profile of Hofstra faculty to include more faculty of color
  • To work to minimize discrimination, cultural insensitivity, and bias
  • To advocate policies to encourage and incentivize faculty to improve their pedagogy and advance their professional development through ongoing diversity training
  • To support development of curricular offerings across all schools and disciplines, to enable students to embrace diversity on campus and to continue doing so as Hofstra alumni

Among the center’s first projects is a faculty summer research grant to develop a new course, or a lecture or workshop that advances its mission. The first faculty research grants were awarded to Kristal Zook, professor of journalism, media studies and public relations, to
study how millennials navigate and experience multiracial identity, and Mustapha Masrour, director of the Language Laboratory, for a project titled “Academic Literacies: A Gateway Into Emancipatory Pedagogy of Citizenship in Our Global Village.”

"Race" – Why Quotation Marks?
Placing “race” in quotation marks seeks to show that “race” is a social and political construct, rather than a biological and scientific one. Below is an excerpt from the American Anthropological Association’s 1998 statement on “race”: Historical research has shown that the idea of “race” has always carried more meanings than mere physical differences; indeed, physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them. Today scholars in many fields argue that “race” as it is understood in the United States of America was a social mechanism invented during the 18th century to refer to those populations brought together in colonial America: the English and other European settlers, the conquered Indian peoples, and those peoples of Africa brought in to provide slave labor.