Social justice subject of Lamar symposium

Published 10:18 am Friday, October 5, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


Lamar University will play host to the first ever Social Justice Symposium on Saturday at the Mary and John Gray Library.

The symposium will feature a wide range of social movements for discussion, including immigration, criminal justice reform, health disparities in local areas and environmental research.

Assistant Professor Margot Gage Witvliet with the Department of Sociology said the event was meant to spotlight the value of the sociological research field as much as it was about raising awareness of important social issues.

“First and foremost, we want to highlight the Department of Sociology and what a sociology major means,” Witvliet said. “A lot of people don’t know that sociology aims to be the voice for the voiceless.”

Witvliet said the public event should bring classroom topics to life for sociology majors and demonstrate the versatility of such a degree.

“It’s going to be open to the local community because we want to show them what faculty is working on and the things that impact their lives,” Witvliet said. “It is important that the discussion on criminal justice reform and promoting health equity transcends the walls of academia.”

The symposium will feature two panels: One on the subject of criminal justice reform and another on public health in Beaumont.

A researcher from Yale University is going to present the results of an air quality study of the Charlton Pollard neighborhood in Beaumont.

In addition, veterans treatment court, a program aimed at helping veterans both in and out of the criminal justice system, will be discussed by Lamar faculty.

Among other guest speakers, candidate for U.S. Congress Adrienne Bell will speak on the topic of women in politics.

Overall, Witvliet estimated 80 people to attend the panels and discussion.

The symposium runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Mary and John Gray Library on the eighth floor at Lamar University. Entry is free and open to the public. Food and drink will be served.

Lamar University faculty along with guest speakers from Yale University and Texas A&M University will lead discussions. There will be a question-and-answer session at the end of each panel.