ALIVE Center and ICSR become Center for Citizenship and Social Justice

Monica Kast

The Institute for Citizenship and Responsibility, or ICSR, and the ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships have been consolidated into the Center for Citizenship and Social Justice, or CCSJ, beginning this semester.

It was first announced in May that due to budget cuts from the state and WKU, the two programs would be consolidated to cut an estimated $151,000 from WKU’s budget. It was announced in May that 24 programs would be cut or consolidated in the 2016-2017 academic year in order to protect “credit-bearing academic programs,” according to President Gary Ransdell.

“The CCSJ is the result of a merger of the former ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships and the Institute for Citizenship & Social Responsibility,” Dennis George, the Dean of University College, said in an email last week announcing the opening of CCSJ. “The Minor in Citizenship and Social Justice remains with the new center.”

Leah Ashwill, former director of the ALIVE Center, will serve as the director of the CCSJ, replacing former director Judy Rohrer. CCSJ will be under the Department of Diversity and Community Studies within University College, the same department that ICSR and the ALIVE Center were formerly under. CCSJ is located in Tate Page Hall.

In May, at the time of the announcement, Ashwill emailed students and staff announcing the consolidation.

“Generally speaking, the new Center will continue to serve as a connector for students, faculty and staff at WKU who wish to partner with community organizations for volunteer opportunities, service-learning projects, and other scholarly service endeavors,” Ashwill said in the email.

According to current information from Ashwill, “The Center for Citizenship & Social Justice is committed to providing academic and extracurricular experiences that empower WKU students, faculty and staff to address complex social issues in partnership with the communities we serve.”

Programs formerly offered by ICSR and the ALIVE Center will continue to be offered through CCSJ, such as The $100 Solution program and “trainings and resources for citizenship and social justice activities, service-learning and public research,” according to Ashwill. The Citizenship and Social Justice minor, formerly offered through ICSR, will continue to be offered through CCSJ.

Ashwill also said that she hopes to “refocus some of our programming towards building civic agency in students by teaching them how to engage in active citizenship through civic education.” This includes a partnership the WKU Political Engagement Project, promotion of voting and volunteering at the polls, and offering more courses focused on civic engagement.

The administration faced criticism from the student body on the decision to consolidate when the merge was first announced.

At the June 24 Board of Regents meeting, the Herald reported that SGA President and student regent Jay Todd Richey expressed concerns about approving the budget with the consolidation of the ALIVE Center and ICSR.

“I believe we are using budget cuts to justify a political move designed to suppress the purpose of the ICSR: encouragement of independent thinking and instilling within students a passion for fighting for social justice causes,” Richey said at the meeting. “We have to look at what is best for all parties, and this is certainly not what is best for the ICSR.”

The Herald reported that WKU Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs David Lee was also present at the June 24 Board of Regents meeting, and addressed Richey’s concerns.

“I think at the end of the day they are compatible and they can be consolidated into a working-effective unit,” Lee said at the meeting.

The first campus event hosted by CCSJ will be on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. in Tate Page. Ashwill said this is a “student mural project” featuring artist Andee Rudloff. At this event, which includes both sketching and painting for “The Great Wall of Service,” students can share their vision for impacting the world during their time at WKU.

Correction: In the previous version of this story, the Herald reported CCSJ would be developing a new Political Engagement Project. This was incorrect, as CCSJ will be partnering with the already existing WKU Political Engagement Project. The Herald regrets the error and encourages readers to send us suggestions for corrections as we strive to be responsible and accurate.

Reporter Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @monicakastwku