Social Justice Futures

It's time for UC Berkeley to truly support students, staff and faculty of color

UC Berkeley has reversed its decision to close the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues this summer. The Vice Chancellor for Research Office issued this announcement on January 14, 2021, stating that the Chancellor is establishing a task force on Social Justice Research that will consider ISSI and all the campus institutes and centers that engage in social justice research. "ISSI will continue to exist in the interim, pending the recommendations of the task force and further consultation with the campus community. We will share the charge letter for the task force as soon as it is completed. We expect the task force recommendations to be finalized by the end of the calendar year." While reversing the decision to close ISSI is a great first step, there are unanswered questions about the building, funding, and so on. We will keep this website updated with the latest on our struggle to ensure social justice futures at Cal.

Our building is crumbling, which is a problem for us and also a great loss for those who care about historic architecture and girls' education (it is the former site of the Anna Head School). Fortunately, community members are advocating for its restoration. Learn more about the building and sign the petition to save it here.

The institute is a historically BIPOC space, an island within the Historically White Institution of UCB. The institute legacy and contemporary practice affirm and nurture current students, faculty, and staff of color, as well as white affiliates, who conduct interdisciplinary, community-engaged research on issues that matter to marginalized communities.

The institute provide space, stipends, community, and mentorship to primarily BIPOC graduate students. ISSI provides formal and informal training, research grants and fellowships, and most importantly, a space of belonging outside the university departments and schools.

ISSI includes seven centers that specialize in researching the structural factors that lead to health disparities, that bring the resources of the university to Native Americans to redress centuries of exploitative academic research, that focus on the right-wing, in a world where white nationalism and fascism are sharply on the rise, and more. Bringing together these disparate but connected centers, the institute fosters synergy and intersectional research.

The university has been providing only $350,000/year to ISSI, less than the deficit of University of California Police Department in 2016, as Professors Michael Burawoy and Celeste Langan noted in their commentary for the Berkeley Faculty Association. Yet despite the modest cost of the institute, the administration still selected it as the only institute to close, out of 50. Fortunately that decision has now been reversed. While our future remains uncertain, we have demonstrated our value and broad support!

We encourage you to learn about our history, our legacy, and the many activists and academics who we serve, and whose lives have been enriched by our presence on campus.

The San Francisco Chronicle published an article about the fight to save ISSI, "a pipeline into the social sciences — sociology, psychology, anthropology, public health, ethnic studies, criminal justice and more — particularly for people of color." Read it and other articles about ISSI here.

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