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School of Justice and Social Inquiry commemorates 25 years

February 29, 2008

For 25 years the School of Justice and Social Inquiry has served as the intellectual hub for the study of justice at Arizona State University, conducting critical inquiries into complex legal and social problems. The school has educated generations of social change agents and justice studies scholars through its interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the school, it will host a series of special events March 6-7 on the ASU Tempe campus.

“We are delighted to share our accomplishments over the past 25 years and our vision for the next era of scholarship in justice studies. And, we are honored that so many distinguished alumni and visiting scholars from throughout the United States and China will be joining us to commemorate our 25th anniversary,” says Marjorie S. Zatz, director of the School of Justice and Social Inquiry and one of the original faculty members of the program.

“From our poster session and plenary on visions of justice and justice studies on Thursday afternoon through our three distinguished guests’ presentations on Friday morning, we’ll have something of interest for everyone concerned about social justice,” she says.

ASU has been a trailblazer in the field of justice studies. The School of Justice and Social Inquiry became the first justice studies program in the country in 1983.

The program was originally created for criminal justice professionals in ASU’s College of Public Programs and grew to be a research center for the study of justice in 1974.

“This wouldn’t have happened if ASU wasn’t a research university on the move,” says Zatz, “and we continue to be a leader in the field in multidisciplinary research.”

The 25th anniversary of the School of Justice and Social Inquiry coincides with this year’s 50th anniversary of ASU becoming a university.

The school, in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since 2003, includes 20 faculty members, 70 doctoral and graduate students, and close to 700 undergraduate majors and minors. Six of those faculty members have been with the school since its inception and set the tone for innovative and cross-disciplinary research.

In addition to Zatz, whose work focuses on racial, ethnic and gender disparities in court outcomes, other pioneers include Gray Cavender and Nancy Jurik, who recently teamed up to develop a series of articles analyzing how societal roles are portrayed in the television hit series “Prime Suspect.” Regents’ Professor David Altheide is an expert in the area of fear and the media. John Johnson, along with lecturer Rudy Gerber, have just published a book on “The Top Ten Death Penalty Myths.” Pat Lauderdale’s latest book, published with doctoral alumna Annamaria Oliverio in 2005, is titled “Terrorism: A New Testament.”

“Today, we number 20 faculty trained in seven different disciplines. Our faculty are highly respected nationally and internationally. Four have been elected presidents of national professional associations and many others have received major awards for scholarly contributions and pedagogical innovations. Our graduate students have gone on to found justice studies programs at other universities in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and are themselves the recipients of numerous academic awards. I know of no other program like ours that can boast such strength,“ notes Zatz.

With five Fulbright scholars working abroad in 2007, including faculty members and graduate students, the school fosters a globally engaged environment that strives to create relevant solutions to complex social problems.

Currently, the school has two visiting faculty members from Manchester University. Russell and Rebecca Dobash are internationally acclaimed leaders in researching domestic violence, and both earned their bachelor’s and master’s degrees at ASU.

”We are exploring five core areas of research and teaching and finding new collaborative ways to explore these critical areas that challenge our future,” says Zatz.

To mark the anniversary, three distinguished lecturers will discuss the current and future direction of justice studies from 9 a.m. to noon, March 7 in Coor Hall, Room L1-74, at ASU’s Tempe campus. The speakers and their presentation topics are:

* John Hagan, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law at Northwestern University on “Darfur and the Crime of Genocide.”

* Sally Engle Merry, professor of anthropology and law and society at New York University on “Law, Human Rights and Social Movements: Exploring the Justice Scaffold.”

* Suli Zhu, dean of Peking University Law School on “Disciplines, Rituals, Addressing and Social Ordering: An Institutional Understanding of Everyday Confucianism.” Zhu is a doctoral alumnus of the school.

A lunch and roundtable workshops are scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. March 7 in a tent on the Student Services lawn. More information about the poster session and plenary on March 6 is at 480-965-7682 or online at

Erica Velasco,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences