University Bulletin 2001-02
Program in Social Justice and Social Policy


Concepts of justice play a profound role in clarifying human needs for health and well-being. Such basic social problems as inequality, poverty, and discrimination pose a constant challenge to policies that serve the health and income needs of children, families, people with disabilities, and the elderly. The public response to such problems, in America and elsewhere, rests on contested definitions of social obligation and social citizenship. The Program in Social Justice and Social Policy examines these essential connections between social values and practical policies. It unites elements in liberal arts study to bridge the analytic gap between ends and means. It also brings together an unusually broad spectrum of faculty and curriculum--combining the academic perspectives of Arts and Sciences departments with professional expertise from The Heller Graduate School. Students are encouraged to explore policy areas in concrete detail, focused variously on particular groups (children, the elderly, people with disabilities) or particular services (health care, income support). Students can also select courses that deal thematically with problems of social equity (poverty, discrimination), as well as courses that approach social justice from historical, philosophical, and comparative perspectives. Key elements of the program include a foundation course, a capstone course, and a research-based internship in a social policy setting.

The concern with social justice speaks to the core educational commitments of Brandeis University. This program does not seek to promote a particular ideological agenda, but rather to spark creative thinking about complex social problems. It carries the search for norms and principles into the wider arena of practical experience. By providing models for critical reflection, it challenges students to articulate their own value commitments in a spirit of constructive debate.

How to Become a Program Member

The Program in Social Justice and Social Policy (SJSP) is open to all Brandeis undergraduates. Students may begin the program at any time, but are encouraged to complete the foundation course within the first two years of study. To enroll in the program, fill out the declaration forms from the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and meet first with one of the members of the program committee. A program advisor will then be assigned by the director to help you plan your course of study, including the timing of the internship/independent research, and capstone requirements.


Richard Gaskins, Codirector

(Legal and American Studies)

Robert Reich, Codirector

(Heller School)

George Ross, Codirector

(Politics and Sociology)

Requirements for the Program

A. The foundation course SOC 123b (Crisis of the Welfare State). Normally this course will be taken within the first two years of study. It is strongly recommended as an introduction to the program, but is not a formal prerequisite for other courses.

B. Students must complete any three elective courses from those listed below. Electives are grouped into topical fields, but students may choose courses from any group. No more than two electives from The Heller School or from any single department may be counted toward program requirements.

C. Either (1) internship, arranged through the program office and the correlative seminar SJSP 92a or 92b; or (2) an independent research course (SJSP 98a or 98b), directed by a member of the program committee, or by another faculty member with the approval of the program director.

D. The capstone seminar POL 159a (Politics of the Modern Welfare State). Normally this course will be taken in the final year of study.

E. No more than two courses may be double-counted for this program and for a particular concentration.

Courses of Instruction

SJSP 92a and b Social Justice and Social Policy Internship and Seminar

Prerequisite: SOC 123b, or permission of the instructor. Signature of the program director required.

Biweekly seminar and supervised internship in a public agency or nonprofit organization. Time commitments depend on the site, up to a maximum of two days per week. In cooperation with the Brandeis faculty advisor and the internship site supervisor, students will complete an individual research project. Internships must be arranged through the program administrator. Usually offered every year.


SJSP 98a and b Social Justice and Social Policy Independent Research

Prerequisite: SOC 123b or permission of the program director. Signature of the program director required.

Guided readings and research on an independent topic that builds upon and integrates the particular course work completed in the SJSP Program. Research may be directed by a member of the program committee, or by another faculty member with the approval of the program director. Usually offered every semester.


Core Courses

POL 159a

Politics of the Modern Welfare State

SOC 123b

Crisis of the Welfare State


Aging and Disability Policy

HS 524a

Long Term Care

SOC 177b

Aging in Society

SOC 192b

Sociology of Disability

Democracy and Social Justice

HOID 130b

Varieties of Freedom, Liberty, and Choice

HS 300a

Social Context of Policy Issues

PHIL 20a

Democracy and Disobedience

POL 154a


Dynamics of Discrimination and Inequality

ECON 133a

Economics of Discrimination and Inequality

HS 110a

Paradox of Wealth and Poverty

HS 528a

Law and Society: Race and Class

LGLS 121b

Law and Social Welfare

Family and Child Policy

HS 544a

Children and Youth at Risk

SOC 104a

Sociology of Education

Health Care Policy

HS 104b

American Health Care

LGLS 114a

American Health Care: Law and Policy

SOC 190b

Caring in the Health Care System

SOC 191a

Health, Community, and Society

Historical and Comparative Perspectives on Social Justice

AAAS 80a

Economy and Society in Africa

AMST 188b

Justice Brandeis and Progressive Jurisprudence

HIST 156b

Social History of the United States 1860-Present

SOC 176a

Nature, Nurture, and Public Policy