Below is the second installment in a multipart series leading up to ‘DEIS Impact, in which ‘DEIS Impacters interview their social justice hero at Brandeis.
The Hero: Laura Goldin, Professor of Environmental Science
Whose Hero?: Annie Fortnow, ’17, ‘DEIS Impacter
I am currently taking a class with Professor Goldin about sustainability on the Brandeis campus and beyond, and have learned a lot about environmental justice and how it can connect to social problems in America today.
When Professor Goldin was twelve years old, she attended the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in Washington, D.C. From this experience, she felt inspired and moved. She understood the possibilities for making change, so she started becoming active in social justice work.
I started the interview by asking Professor Goldin what social justice means to her. She responded by telling me that social justice is a broad concept that gives us a sense that everyone is entitled to respect and fairness. We should all have a shared humanity, as we are all entitled to the same lives, and no one should have less. Those who have more have an obligation to make it easier for those who have less. Professor Goldin ultimately described social justice as the “ultimate justice between human beings and the world around us.”
I next asked Professor Goldin about when she first got involved in social justice work. She has always seen the world through a social justice lens and has been aware of injustice. For example, when she sees an older person eating by himself on a park bench, she feels sad about it and has the urge to go over and talk to that person. Growing up, she remembers segregation. She went to school in Maryland, and when her family drove to Florida, they found themselves going through the segregated South. Professor Goldin went into a colored bathroom by mistake and got in trouble for it. This made her deeply upset and fueled her desire to embattle this action of treating others unfairly. She felt connected to this as a Jew. The Jewish people were discriminated against during the Holocaust, and she believed it was her turn as a Jewish person to make change and help those being discriminated against at the time.
I then asked Professor Goldin about her social justice experiences at Brandeis. The most widespread experience, she responded, was starting a Housing Advocacy Clinic at WATCH in Waltham. WATCH is an organization focused on expanding affordable housing development. Professor Goldin had the belief that students could help be guides and could be trained to assist people in resolving housing problems, and she was right. This Housing Advocacy Clinic has sustained for eight years now because students have been able to carry it on so well. She feels that the Clinic reaches many people in Waltham. Many students have been involved and made an impact in the community.
Additionally, Professor Goldin has taken her Justice Brandeis Semester, an experiential learning semester that she runs every other year, to Harlan, Kentucky to see the effect of mountaintop removal for coal extraction on the people living in the area. She believes that this was the most poignant social justice related experience for students that makes them understand the connection between social justice and environmental impact.
Lastly, I asked Professor Goldin about her thoughts on ‘DEIS Impact. She loves how it sets time aside to discuss and engage in social justice on the Brandeis campus. She also sees it as a showcase for people’s experiences with social justice, which, in the process, creates new experiences for those attending the social justice events.
Professor Goldin has taught me so much about how environmental issues can be related to social justice. I encourage everyone at Brandeis to talk to your professors about any justice work they have done to connect your passions to social action. In the meantime, get excited for great social justice conversations on a wide variety of topics during ‘DEIS Impact from January 30 to February 9, 2015!