Classes, events to focus on social justice
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The University of Iowa is beginning its second Theme Semester, Just Living, that will explore topics and issues surrounding social justice.

Angela Davis
Angela Davis will talk on March 8 about her work combating oppression in the U.S. and abroad. Photo courtesy of Angela Davis.

The goal is to encourage thoughtful discussion and understanding of our differences and how injustice affects the world around us. Events and classes throughout the semester will address topics such as race, identity, environmental justice, interfaith cooperation.

“We hope to cultivate a greater appreciation for where cultures and groups intersect with each other in the community and generate support for this work on campus and across the state,” said Georgina Dodge, the UI’s chief diversity officer and associate vice president. “Social justice calls on all of us to ensure that everyone is provided equal rights and opportunities.”

More than 130 academic courses have been self-identified by faculty across campus, more than 100 events have been tagged on the UI Events Calendar, and organizers have been working since fall 2014 to plan a lineup of diverse activities.

Just Living begins with the opening reception of the exhibit THEM: Images of Separation from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Old Capitol Museum. The exhibit is on loan from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia and showcases items from history and popular culture that depict stereotypes of certain groups.

“These images and objects are painful to see, but it’s important for all of us to acknowledge the attitudes they illustrate,” says Trina Roberts, director of the Pentacrest Museums. “We hope confronting and discussing these divisive images can help us become a more inclusive and united community.”

Please note that the exhibit contains graphic images that include racist, sexual, and violent content that some visitors may find upsetting. The museum has rated this exhibit as appropriate for ages 13 and older. Panels have been installed to prevent museum visitors from inadvertently entering or seeing the exhibit. The museum also has posted a warning to visitors and a statement explaining reasons for presenting the exhibit.

Other marquee events of the Just Living Theme Semester include:

  • March 8: Angela Davis will talk about her work combating oppression in the U.S. and abroad.
  • March 28: Eboo Patel will speak to campus and community members about interfaith cooperation.
  • April 8: In conjunction with the 2016 Iowa Human Rights Research Conference, Sister Helen Prejean will speak in an evening public lecture about her prison ministry and life dedication to wrongful executions.
  • April 9: Students from across the state will convene on campus for the 2016 Iowa Human Rights Research Conference hosted by the Center for Human Rights. Guest lecturers include former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach.
  • April 19: Robert Bullard will present a lecture on environmental justice.
  • Laverne Cox, an outspoken transgender advocate, will speak about gender expectations. Her lecture, originally set for Feb. 1, is being rescheduled.

“There are no easy solutions to injustice, but we must continually build on solutions,” Dodge says. “We’re looking forward to the numerous opportunities this semester that will allow our campus and community to explore themselves, their relationship to others, and the world they live in—and create spaces for important dialogue.”

For a complete list of Theme Semester events, classes, and more, go to