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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Psychological Theories of Social Justice

Instructor(s): Virginia Murphy-Berman, Psychology

In this seminar, students will learn to think critically about a variety of social justice issues and policies in the areas of redistributive justice, procedural justice, distributive justice, and expressive justice. These theories have relevance to issues related to criminal justice, justice in the course and in legal proceedings, justice in the workplace, justice in war, and politics and justice in international affairs. Using different social and psychological frameworks, students will analyze theories of punishment and the use of the death penalty, ideas of what it means to be responsible for a crime and competent to testify in court, analyses of affirmative action policies, considerations of justice warfare and problems of global poverty, and definitions of human rights. In our analyses, we will consider multiple questions such as: What is a just way to punish people who commit crimes? Do tough prison policies help deter crime and make society safer? Is the "not guilty by reason of insanity" verdict just? Can young children serve as credible witnesses in court? How fair is affirmative action? Are human rights culturally universal? Is justice gender biased? Why do we go to war and is there such a thing as a "just war"?

Course Offered