As a course of study, the Program on Justice and Peace embodies Georgetown’s commitment to Jesuit ideals unlike any other. The College’s decision, therefore, to expand the program from a minor to a major last week represents a victory for the entire university, and it’s surprising only that it took so long.
The new major came about thanks to a yearlong campaign by students in the justice and peace studies minor, which has been a part of the curriculum for more than 20 years. In this minor, students were required to write a 50-page thesis, a deterrent for some interested students. In the program’s new structure, the thesis will only be required of students in the major, hopefully encouraging more students interested in social justice to explore the related discipline in their academic endeavors.
Beyond the Program on Justice and Peace, the addition of the new major encourages opportunities in interdisciplinary study. Interdisciplinary majors allow students to learn a range of subjects, which can be an attractive option for students wary of a more traditional major. Majors like American studies and medieval studies have proven to build a substantial foundation in multiple fields, research skills and analytical thinking. Adding yet another option can only be a positive development.
Furthermore, with substantive academic backing, social justice programming for undergraduates stands to gain from this decision. Students who find enrichment through social justice now have more expansive means by which they can learn about the systemic, cultural and social complexities behind their work. While anyone could have taken a justice and peace studies course to achieve these benefits beforehand, adding a major means there will be a wider array of offerings on the subject.
In creating a JUPS major, administrators recognized a passion among Georgetown students and took action to provide the academic resources to meet it. Acting on student demand sets an admirable precedent that the university should follow when students show widespread interest in pursuing academic opportunities.