Food for Thought Friday: Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez spoke at Boston College on immigration last month. He stressed the need to remember the people amid the statistics. Amid considerations on immigration policies, the Archbishop pointed out how “it’s also important to remember that behind every “statistic” is a soul — a soul who has dignity as a child of God, a soul who has rights and needs that are both spiritual and material.”
The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, hosted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, is an annual national gathering for members of the Ignatian family (Jesuit institutions and larger church) to come together in the context of social justice and solidarity to learn, reflect, pray, network, and advocate together. This year’s teach-in will take place November 12-14 in Washington, DC with the theme Mercy in Action.
The conference will include keynotes, networking opportunities, and an advocacy day. Speakers include Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, Norma Pimental, MJ, and Lisa Sharon Harper.
Registration is available on the Ignatian Solidarity Network website.
The Human Thread, an organization committed to fostering solidarity between consumers of clothing and those that produce them, is launching a postcard campaign advocating for a living wage for garment workers who produce clothes sold at Macy’s and Kohl’s. Between now and Black Friday (Nov. 25), postcards will be sent to the CEOs of Macy’s and Kohl’s in support of a living wage at the sites where our clothes are made. The Human Thread asks for your involvement.
With this campaign, the Human Thread challenges: “Given the woeful wages in garment-producing countries, did the workers who made my clothing receive a wage that will support them and their families? Knowing that the garment industry is the second biggest user of water and the consequent immense harm that the garment industry does to the environment, we also ask what care and provision was made for the care of creation in the production of this garment?”
Download the postcard from the Human Thread website, then sign, stamp, and mail it to Macy’s and to Kohl’s to express your support of their workers’ rights. Read more about the campaign in this article from National Catholic Reporter.
Just over 2 million people in the United States are currently incarcerated. According to the Sentencing Project, the U.S. incarceration rate has increased by 500 percent in the last 40 years, making the United States the largest incarcerator in the world. It is not difficult to imagine the near impossibility of pursuing a college degree while incarcerated and the significant barriers to higher education that exist once released.
To help combat the hurdles to attaining an education during and after prison, Catholic colleges and universities have implemented programs such as Hudson Link @ St. Francis College (SFC). Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison is a nonprofit organization that seeks to restore and strengthen access to higher education for those in prison. As one of the organization’s college partners, St. Francis subsidizes tuition for students to pursue a degree from the college after their release from a correctional institution, according to SFC’s website. By working with a population at significant risk of recidivism, or returning to prison, Hudson Link @ SFC uses its resources to help returning citizens transition back into society, with the hopes of “decreasing recidivism while increasing employment opportunities and earnings potential” for the Hudson Link students.
According to Richard Relkin, director of media relations and adjunct professor at SFC, there are ten faculty members who “are actively involved with formally and informally supporting Hudson Link students.” After three years of being involved with Hudson Link, Relkin reports that SFC will have its first graduating class in spring 2017. Hudson Link @ SFC has made deep and lasting impressions on the students, faculty, and even administrators at the college. Two years ago, a student learned of Hudson Link and worked with administration to have the question regarding criminal history removed from SFC’s admissions application. Relkin shared that students and faculty in contact with the Hudson Link students “begin to understand the concept of rehabilitative justice, and the importance of giving people a second chance.” By enacting forgiveness and mercy, Hudson Link @ SFC embodies the college’s Franciscan mission.
Another example of prison education programs is found at Donnelly College, which runs the Lansing Correctional Program, bringing a liberal arts education to offenders in the Lansing Correctional Facility. Established in 2001, the program has taught 420 students and has awarded 20 associate degrees. Nationally, about 68 percent of returning citizens are rearrested within three years. Conversely, Donnelly’s program boasts a 2 percent recidivism rate for its graduates, an indication that a college education contributes to lower rates of returning to prison.
Steve Jansen, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Donnelly College and director of the program, explained that since 2001 Donnelly has been providing classes at Lansing despite the facility being a significant distance from campus. Jansen expressed that faculty are drawn to Lansing because “the students are not better skilled but in general they’re better motivated because they want to prove to themselves and to their families that they’re not what society says they are.”
At the program’s roots is the human dignity of the students, rather than their criminal history. With its deep respect for the humanity of its students, the Lansing Correctional Program realizes Donnelly’s mission “to provide education and community services with personal concern for the needs and abilities of each student, especially those who might not otherwise be served.”
Another example of a program that brings education to prisons is found at Holy Cross College (HCC). Started in 2013, the Westville Education Initiative (WEI) is a collaboration between faculty at HCC and the University of Notre Dame that allows incarcerated students to earn an associate’s degree at HCC and transition to a HCC bachelor’s degree program. Alesha Seroczynski, Ph.D., director of college operations for WEI, expressed that they seek “great minds with the potential to be outstanding students.” Stressing that the program is very rigorous and not designed to simply offer time-cuts to offenders, Seroczynski says the WEI students “genuinely want to be better people and they believe a college education is one of the ways for that to happen.” WEI has awarded twelve associate’s degrees to incarcerated students, with a first cohort of students beginning in the bachelor’s degree program this fall.
Aligning with the missions of Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame, WEI educates “the heart and mind,” as Seroczynski puts it. The Initiative is also hoping to expand in the future. HCC was recently awarded one of 67 Second Chance Pell Grants, a pilot initiative of the Obama administration to offer grants to incarcerated students pursing higher education. Modeled after the Bard Prison Initiative and already participating in the Bard College–based Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, WEI hopes to create a network of its own with other small liberal arts schools in Indiana.
A final example of prison education can be found at La Salle University in Philadelphia. Distinct from the aforementioned programs, La Salle’s Inside Out Prison Exchange Program has been offering La Salle students the opportunity to join an equal number of incarcerated students in taking a course inside local prisons since 2014. The courses have centered on questioning mass incarceration and how best to move forward from the phenomenon.
Caitlin Taylor, Ph.D., is one of the first professors to teach a course for the Inside Out program. A professor of criminal justice, Taylor explains that “Inside Out courses tend to be very different from traditional college courses in that the faculty member is there to facilitate the learning experience as opposed to provide direct instructions.” By learning from one another, Taylor continues, “most students are transformed by the collaborative learning experience.” The Inside Out program lives out the university’s Catholic identity and mission, as Taylor expresses it, “to meet students where they are at and to educate traditionally underserved populations.”
Educating incarcerated individuals and returning citizens is one way Catholic higher education has taken steps toward reducing recidivism, creating safer communities, and building bridges between unlikely friends. Examples such as Hudson Link @ Saint Francis College, the Westville Education Initiative at Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame, the Lansing Correctional Program at Donnelly College, and the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program of La Salle University demonstrate the unique ability for Catholic colleges and universities to educate the forgotten and to rehabilitate the forsaken. By supporting and implementing such programs, these four institutions embody their Catholic mission and help create opportunities to respect the human dignity of those who are incarcerated.
Justine Worden is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University. She was the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities during the 2015-16 academic year.
Are you a current college or university student who believes in the importance of fair trade? If so, consider entering Fairtrade America’s back-to-school essay contest.
The judges of the contest will be Rick Peyster of Lutheran World Relief, Margarot Conover from Fairtrade America, and Suzi Hiza from Fair Trade Campaigns. Winners’ essays will be published on Fair Trade Blog site, and the grand prize winner will have a chance to interview Rick Peyster for the blog. Don’t delay – essays are due by September 15!
The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities extends its congratulations to Fordham University for being the latest Catholic university to be designated a Fair Trade University! Fordham students have worked hard to create Students for Fair Trade (SFT), the official fair trade student organization at Fordham, and to incorporate fair trade products into daily life at the university.
SFT is a student-run club that promotes fair trade in business and consumption through education and advocacy. Through SFT, Fordham has been able not only to sell fair trade products at almost all of their restaurants and bookstores, but also to host employees of Alta Gracia, the only garment company in the global south to be certified for paying its workers a living wage.
Congratulations to Fordham for their great work in promoting fair trade!
The upcoming one-year anniversary of the release of Laudato Si’ has inspired reflection on the impacts it has had on Catholics around the world, especially institutions of Catholic higher education. In the April 2016 issue of Connections, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities’ (AJCU) monthly newsletter, several institutions were featured as having responded to the encyclical with fervor:
Laudato Si’ was a “Game-Changer” for Creighton University, where professors of theology, biology, environmental science, cultural and social studies, and communication studies, and sustainability studies have experienced renewed interest and and energy in their studies and coursework.
Gonzaga University has taken a “Multidisciplinary Approach” to responding to the encyclical with “deep academic engagement around Catholic social teaching,” encyclical reading groups, inter-departmental panel discussions, lectures, documentary film screenings, and a renewed commitment to sustainability on campus.
Food justice and social justice have been major themes for Loyola University Chicago‘s response to Laudato Si’, as well as “eco-education” through conferences focused on poverty and climate justice, lectures, and assisting in the development of a new free online environmental textbook.
Marquette University has made a renewed commitment to “Going Green” through participating in research at the Global Water Center in Milwaukee, the hiring of the University’s first sustainability coordinator, assisting in the development of the above-mentioned textbook, the LEED certification of two campus buildings, and the focusing of Mission Week on care for creation and sustainability.
A reflection on the call to promote and fight for environmental justice, as inspired by Laudato Si’, written by Clint J. Springer, associate professor of biology at St. Joseph’s University.
The Ford Foundation, a secular philanthropic organization that seeks to promote the full human dignity of all persons through equitable sharing in knowledge, wealth, and resources, recently released a report studying the impact of their International Fellowship Program, finding that many of the IFP alumni returned to their home countries to either begin a new social justice program organization or expand upon the work of existing organizations.
In the report, entitled Social Justice and Sustainable Change: The Impacts of Higher Education, the Foundation shows their findings from their 2015 International Fellowships Program Alumni Tracking Study Report. The International Fellowships Program (IFP) supported “advanced studies for social change leaders from the worlds’ most vulnerable populations” through scholarships for higher education, offering fellowships to students from 2001 – 2013. Some of these students studied at Catholic higher education institutions, including Boston College and Georgetown University.
This summer, Seattle University, one of two Jesuit universities in the state of Washington, will host a conference on “Just Sustainability: Hope for the Commons.” The conference, hosted by the Seattle University Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability (CEJS) on August 7-9, 2016, will focus on environmental justice and sustainability research, interdisciplinary dialogue and education, nonprofit and governmental work, networks among Jesuit institutions, and environmental justice in the arts.
McKenzie Funk, writer whose work has appeared in Harper’s, National Geographic, Outside, Rolling Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times
Interfaith Amigos, an organization comprised of Protestant Pastor Don Mackenzie, Ph.D., Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D., and Imam Jamal Rahman
The conference will also feature over forty presentations from experts on “the social, environmental, and economic aspects of sustainability.” The gathering seeks to promote collaboration around caring for our common home. Register now to ensure your seat!
How does your college or university promote collaboration around caring for our common home? Let us know!
During Lent, Catholics are called to abstain from consuming meat on Fridays to be in greater solidarity with those in need, leading many to eat more fish throughout the season. This year, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT) has started a campaign to call for the end of exploitative labor in seafood harvest and production.
CCOAHT’s Lenten Postcard Campaign is an easy way to get involved with anti-human trafficking efforts this Lent. The campaign was launched in an effort to encourage “greater vigilance on the part of our suppliers to ensure that the seafood we eat is not tainted by slave labor.” The postcards, ask that seafood suppliers “do all in their power to guarantee that their supply chains are free of forced labor.” The two suppliers CCOAHT has chosen to target are Costco and StarKist.
Anyone can download the postcard to Costco here, and the postcard to StarKist here. To have printed and stamped postcards sent to your parish, school, or social justice ministry please contact CCOAHT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How is your college or university engaging with anti-human trafficking efforts? Let us know!