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College of Arts and Sciences

Arts and Sciences Theme Semester will explore justice

By Bryan Gentry | June 22, 2020

The search for justice is a common thread connecting social movements, including the women’s suffrage movement 100 years ago, the Civil Rights movement, and even recent protests and debates in South Carolina and across the United States.

It’s also a theme of more than 30 courses and public events this fall in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina.
 

The college is introducing a new Theme Semester initiative during the Fall 2020 semester. Each fall, Theme Semester will bring diverse audiences together to explore an important topic from multiple angles. The college chose "Justice" for the Fall 2020 theme in October 2019, but the topic has become even more relevant since then.

“The chosen theme could not be more timely given current events, including the ongoing health and economic crises and the nation-wide protests,” says Cynthia Davis, the college’s associate dean overseeing Theme Semester. She also notes the timeliness of a "Justice" Theme Semester coinciding with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States.

The faculty members who proposed the theme ― Monica Barra, Elaine Chun, and Qiana Whitted ― described the broad appeal and ongoing importance of the ideal. "Justice is an idea, topic and aspiration that connects people across academic, political, and everyday spaces,” they wrote in their proposal.

It broadens our vision of how learning should occur and is exactly the type of new teaching and learning innovation that a broad and diverse college like ours makes possible.

― Lacy Ford, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

The Justice Theme Semester includes more than 30 affiliated courses that connect to the theme, covering topics ranging from the history of plagues to young adult literature. But the college funded six special courses created specifically to address the justice theme:

  • “Environmental Racism and Justice” (ENVR 348 / AFAM 348) taught by Monica Barra, an assistant professor in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment and Department of Anthropology
  • “Voting and Elections: Theory, Mathematics and Social Justice” (SCHC 311 / MATH 399 / MATH 599) taught by Scott Dunn, an instructor in the Department of Mathematics
  • “Jim Crow: Histories and Revivals” (HIST 463 / AFAM 463) taught by Myisha Eatmon, an instructor in the Department of History
  • “Sustainable Cities” (GEOG 321), taught by Conor Harrison, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography
  • “Special Topics in Philosophy: Climate Justice in SC” (PHIL 370), taught by Matthew Kisner, a professor in the Department of Philosophy
  • “Miscarriages of Justice” (CRJU 591 / AFAM 397) taught by Deena Isom Scott, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Theme Semester also includes several public events. Schedules and formats, including the possibility of livestreamed events, are still being finalized, but highlights include:

  • A Woman’s Right, an exhibition at the McKissick Museum focusing on the history of women at the University of South Carolina, and a series of events exploring women’s rights on campus;
  • “Remembering the Freedom Rides,” a conversation with civil rights activists who challenged Jim Crow segregation on bus lines in the 1960s;
  • A lecture by Moon Duchin, an expert on the mathematics of gerrymandering and redistricting
  • Guerrilla Girls: Art, Power and Justice for All!, a poster exhibition in McMaster Gallery, plus a talk and workshop by one of the Guerrilla Girls, a group of feminist artists who don gorilla masks to remain anonymous as they advocate for equality in the arts.

“The goal of theme semester is to demonstrate the transformative impact of an arts and sciences education by exploring big topics taught across College of Arts and Sciences disciplines," Davis says. “Each theme semester will showcase our college, our outstanding faculty and our innovative courses and programs while also illustrating our commitment to undergraduate education both in and outside the classroom.”

Dean Lacy K. Ford says that Theme Semester will highlight the strengths of a broad education.

“This innovative, student-centered approach to a single theme provides a focused way of bringing gifted faculty together across the many disciplines within the College of Arts and Sciences," he says. “It explores broad topics, like Justice, our timely topic for Fall 2020, from a wide variety of perspectives and allows students to learn about that topic from many angles. It broadens our vision of how learning should occur and is exactly the type of new teaching and learning innovation that a broad and diverse college like ours makes possible.”


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