Georgetown University’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service has ensured a commendable commitment to offering its full programming despite facing barriers in the virtual environment. The CSJ has become a model for how Georgetown’s various organizations can operate effectively amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and students and university staff alike should look to its efforts.
The CSJ hosts an array of programs intended to foster community, justice and teaching. Despite the online environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CSJ has continued to maintain its programs. CSJ programs such as D.C. Reads — a tutoring program that allows Georgetown students to be literacy tutors for local elementary students — are vital organizations for both Georgetown student development and for Washington, D.C. public schools.
Raymond Shiu, the deputy director for the CSJ, wrote to The Hoya about the CSJ’s operations during COVID-19. Shiu stated that, while the CSJ’s most meaningful impacts are created in-person, the CSJ is continuing all programming in a virtual environment for the fall 2020 semester.
Shiu wrote that changes have been made to adjust for the new circumstances, however.
“DC Public Schools announced that their Out of School Time infrastructure will not be available to any service provider in the city. Their time, funds, and staff time are instead focused on supporting virtual learning for DCPS families. CSJ’s programs working with DCPS families instead are developing these programs and relationships based on our individual outreach to families and teachers,” Shiu wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Despite this barrier from D.C. Public Schools, the CSJ has persisted and continued to reach out to families in need of tutoring. By prioritizing families and their needs on top of COVID-19 challenges, the CSJ is setting an example for its fellow university offices. Every organization at Georgetown must look to the CSJ as an exemplar for operating virtually.
Aditi Mittal (COL ’22) is a student program coordinator for D.C. Reads. (Full disclosure: Mittal is a deputy copy editor at The Hoya). Mittal outlined the various ways in which D.C. Reads is creating and ensuring virtual engagement. Student leaders will use Zoom to do small group tutoring while continuing the same activities they would typically do with DCPS students. Furthermore, D.C. Reads has constructed a virtual common room via Canvas for student leaders to have discussions and ask questions.
As outlined by Mittal, the CSJ has made phenomenal strides to adapt to the virtual environment. By creating these systems that allow students to reach out directly to DCPS families and ensuring students remain connected via Zoom, the CSJ has created an admirable model for student programming in the virtual environment. Other Georgetown offices can look to the CSJ’s Zoom and Canvas models for ideas on how to keep students engaged and foster community virtually.
While there are certainly more challenges the CSJ will need to overcome — such as ensuring Georgetown students remain actively engaged despite the various challenges COVID-19 poses — the office has created a model for the rest of the university to learn from. Community is more important than ever in an era when many students are isolated and separated from their peers by a computer screen. Georgetown community members must continue to engage with offices like the CSJ while modeling their efforts off the office’s robust virtual environment.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.