Social justice and an artistic medium

November 18th, 2015


On Friday, Nov. 13, Russian poet Sergey Gandlevsky read his poetry to students and staff in the O’Dea Room. While he read in Russian, English professor Phil Metres translated. Gandlevsky and Metres have been friends since 1993; they met when Metres spent the year in Russia learning about the poetry and culture. He says, “Sergey Gandlevsky was one of the most generous, intelligent and fascinating people  I met.”


The poems presented and translated by Gandlevsky and Metres were mostly reflections of Gandlevsky’s private life, and many poems captured his feelings of disappointment due to the crumbling of the Soviet Union’s political and economic structures. He believes that poetry has the ability to bring members of different countries together during times of conflict. Metres thinks this as well, and that it is relevant in the courses he teaches such as a literature class on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. These beliefs and qualities are essential learning components for students at John Carroll.


John Carroll has a very clear devotion to social justice that can be seen throughout the curriculum. However, the University does not have a strong venue to promote social justice through the arts. John Carroll is very practical, focusing on teaching pragmatic fields of study. Relative to other universities, students are offered somewhat limited choices when it comes to classes in the arts.  It was commendable to see the message conveyed through an artistic medium to the JCU community–poetry.


It is important for John Carroll to present both classroom and extracurricular opportunities that surround issues relevant on domestic and international levels. The mission of this University is to give students the chance to develop as total human persons grounded in liberalizing, humanizing arts and sciences as well as having a respect of their own culture and that of others. Senior Alexus Edinger says, “Having the opportunity to attend a liberal arts school shapes and molds us into a well-rounded people.”


Bringing individuals of different cultures such as Gandlevsky to campus, and by providing classes that relate to social justice issues such as Metres’, students are challenged to think critically. Critical thinking forces students to be more open-minded and transparent while challenging them to cognitive expansion on world matters. Introducing issues through artistic forms such as poetry is refreshing and praiseworthy.