Just minutes before noon on Wednesday, April 26, Fairfield University’s Class of 2024 received communication from the “Student Announcements” email address, which shared the news that a change to the Magis Core’s Social Justice requirements will come.
Director of the Magis Core Curriculum Committee (MCCC), Elizabeth Petrino, Ph.D., authored the email to students, which described the nature of the changes being made for the Class of 2024 exclusively.
In the email, she shared with rising seniors that as just the second class to graduate with the Magis Core—the Class of 2023 being the first to ever go through the program—there are some students who have not had the chance to fulfill all of their requirements before graduation, and “deserve some consideration.”
Although she emphasized the importance of completing the Magis Core in order and to its fullest extent, she stated that “Any three SJ courses at any level will fulfill the [Social Justice] requirement for these students.”
This means that current juniors who have been unable to secure certain Social Justice courses will now have the flexibility to take any three Social Justice levels they would prefer in order to graduate.
“We did note in particular that we see that the SJ element needs for the Class of 2024, there was a lack there in terms of which courses students were able to fulfill,” Petrino mentioned in an interview with The Mirror.
Although certain students in the Class of 2024 have arranged to complete the MSJ2-R requirement, Petrino mentioned that 50% of juniors had yet to take a course with this attribute, with only two semesters remaining before graduation.
Keeping this in mind, Petrino and the MCCC thought it would be best to ease the “log jam” that the attributes may have created for current juniors, acknowledging that some students have had difficulty meeting all the required elements.
She continued that junior students should see the change made in their Degree Evaluation page soon, reflecting the new changes.
CAS Professors Respond
Professors in the College of Arts and Sciences noticed the change for the Class of 2024, but also emphasized the importance of expansion for social justice teaching at Fairfield University.
“I feel strongly that the SJ requirement is one of the most meaningful elements of our Magis Core and I am proud to be offering two courses that engage it. Eventually I see myself designing and submitting for approval just about every course I teach as my pedagogy inherently takes up matters of social justice. It’s one of the reasons I love teaching at a Jesuit university,” Professor Emily Orlando, Ph.D. commented.
Professor Kris Sealey, Ph.D., shared similar sentiments.
“As someone who has worked closely with the SJ signature element, this [change] is not surprising. My colleagues and I have known for quite some time that there needs to be faculty hiring explicitly for the SJ signature element,” Sealey stated in a written statement to The Mirror.
“Teaching for social justice is an area of expertise (just like any other disciplinary area/focus). Like many faculty, it is my hope that the university commits to hiring faculty with this area of expertise, so that enough SJ courses can be offered for students to take. It would be a shame for students to have graduated from a Jesuit university without a robust education in social justice. If a Jesuit education isn’t that, I don’t know what it is,” she declared.
Professor Shannon King, Ph.D., spoke to what such courses mean to students.
“We live in a complicated, ever-changing world and Fairfield University students, like all citizens, should have the tools to understand it, especially social justice issues,” he claimed.
“In 2023, we are still fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment and for African American Studies to be taught. Our students should know the history and political context of these issues and why equal and fair pay for women and an inclusive, equitable education for all remain fraught issues today.”
King also highlighted the importance of faculty coming together in order to create a cohesive list of course offerings that emphasize social justice teachings.
“We need an all-hands-on-deck approach. We need more faculty to submit SJ courses to the SJ subcommittee. It takes time to complete the application, but I deeply appreciate that the requirements are rigorous. I learned a lot from the application process, and it helped me rethink how I teach all of my courses,” King shared.
“We also need more support for workshops and the university should prioritize the hiring of more faculty who teach SJ courses, especially as we witness how student enrollment has exploded over the last couple of years.”
Petrino shared that in the spirit of growing the social justice attribute offerings at Fairfield, summer clinics will be held for professors who are looking to designate their course as an SJ course. Two clinics will be held, one for the MSJ2 attribute specifically and one for the MSJR attribute.
According to Petrino, the courses will be submitted for approval over the summer, and if approved, the attributes will be linked to the class that is being offered in the Fall of 2023.
Petrino clarified that it is important to note that attributes follow a professor, not a course. This means that one section of a course could offer an SJ attribute, whereas the other section taught by a different professor may not.
For students who believe that a course they are taking should offer a Social Justice attribute but does not currently carry it, Petrino urges students to talk to their professor to look into attribution to an SJ element.
Students understood the change made by the MCCC, but also realized the importance of the SJ requirements in their own learning.
“I think that it’s important [that] students use their time at university to expose themselves to conversations they wouldn’t have in a professional or personal setting, which the original social justice requirements sought to achieve,” Jackie Campbell ‘24 stated.
“I do understand the need to make it easier for students to accomplish these requirements, but I hope that they still put students in courses that push them out of their comfort zone,” she continued.
Nicholas DiStefano ‘24 also understood the MCCC’s response to high numbers of students unable to get into classes with certain attributes.
“I think it’s beneficial for juniors who are stressing about graduation requirements and getting those social justice requirements done,” he commented.
He continued, stating that “I’ve been lucky, but I know others have not when getting all those done. There’s no way to really put yourself ahead unless you have the proper credits,” he clarified.
With only two semesters left, rising seniors like DiStefano realize that the pressure is high on students looking to delve deeper into their major-related coursework and stay on a good pace to graduate.
More Information about the Magis Core
Fairfield University’s website states the mission of the Magis Core Curriculum, which “supports and reflects Fairfield University’s mission of educating the whole person and offering ongoing opportunities for transformation.”
With this in mind, the Magis Core aims to offer Fairfield students the unique opportunity to take classes with certain attributes that align with the University’s Jesuit identity; specifically, in the areas of social justice education. Certain courses at Fairfield are linked with attributes that help students gain a deeper understanding of their course material in social justice-based contexts.
Other elements are required as part of completing the core, as well. Alongside the Magis Social Justice Introduction (MSJ1), Magis Social Justice 2 (MSJ2), and Magis Social Justice-Race (MSJR), the core offers students classes with attributes like Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), Writing in the Discipline (WID), and Interdisciplinary (MSID).
Previously, a junior student’s Degree Evaluation shows them that they must complete each social justice course, one interdisciplinary course, two WAC-attributed courses, and one WID-attributed course. With the change, it will now require any level of social justice courses.
In the upcoming summer, eight MSJ1 courses will be offered. Eight MSJ2 courses will be offered as well, with five MSJR courses, according to the course catalog.
In the Fall of 2023, Fairfield University students of all class years will have access to 48 MSJ1 courses, 42 MSJ2 courses, and 11 MSJR courses at the time of this printing.