star twitter facebook envelope linkedin instagram youtube alert-red alert home left-quote chevron hamburger minus plus search triangle x

Unified for Social Justice

CMU is committed to social justice, and to deploying time, energy, and resources to social justice causes and reforms at the university, as well as in the Pittsburgh community and the nation as a whole.

Heinz College students and faculty have voiced enthusiastic support for programming and curricular opportunities that elevate attention on issues related to criminology and criminal justice, labor discrimination, health and environmental inequities, and many other disparities that have a disproportionate negative impact on minority populations in the United States.

This summer, Heinz College appointed a Social Justice Committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff representatives to envision and design programs, utilizing the College’s relevant scholarship to shape national discourse and policy action. The Committee’s work is ongoing, though we are excited to announce immediately several upcoming events that will engage our community on these crucial topics.

We will continually announce dates for future events. We hope that you will plan to take part. 


The Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE) and the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy present a virtual speaker series on racial disparities in America.

As part of Carnegie Mellon’s larger efforts to address these systemic challenges in our society, CAUSE and Heinz College created this series in 2021, designed to promote collaboration and deepen our understanding of the historical and contemporary policy dimensions of persistent class and racial inequality in American society.

CAUSE is directed by Dr. Joe Trotter and housed within the CMU Department of History, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

  • 2022 CAUSE Speaker Series
    “Land, Lords, and Tenants,” Struggles for Rent Control in Lagos, Nigeria, 1941-60

    Friday, April 8, 2022 | 4:30pm - 6:30pm ET

    Register here to attend!

    Amid the coronavirus pandemic, housing evictions continue to undermine public health and economic livelihood. This presentation explores how urban dwellers dealt with housing insecurities during a different moment of globaleconomic and political upheaval:World War II. Specifically, it will discuss how tenants in Lagos, one of the world’s populous cities, confronted rent inflation from the middle of the Second World War until Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Several factors, such as the rising cost of living, contributed to rent hikes. With the support of the Nigerian press, tenants pushed the British colonial government to pass rent restrictions laws in 1942. After Nigerian politicians began to take over the city’s administration during the 1950s, tenants ensured that rent control remained active. While some tenants used rent control to secure housing, many could not prevent their homeowners’ illegal eviction tactics. The history of tenants' struggles for rent control illuminates how ordinary residents improved their living conditions and claimed urban resources.

    Halimat Somotan Halimat Somotan, Ph.D is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History, working with Professor Joe Trotter. She is ascholar of colonial and postcolonial Africa, whose research and teaching focuson housing, decolonization, and African cities. Her current book project, Decolonizing the City: Popular Politics and the Making of Postcolonial Lagos,examines how ordinary Lagosians experienced and contested Nigeria’s transition from colonial rule to independence. It shows how landlords, tenants, and female traders challenged and sought to reform governmental policies concerning slum clearance, rent control, state land acquisition, and sanitation. The manuscript argues that Lagosians went beyond supporting nationalist movements but consistently pushed for urban reforms under both civilian and military regimes to improve urban policies. The research has implications for understanding contemporary megacity urban development and residents’ everyday contestations against displacement. Somotan received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. Her research has been funded by organizations such as the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, the University of Virginia, the Council on Library and Information, and the Mellon Foundation.

    Other Recent Sessions
    Segregated Medicine - How Racial Politics Shaped American Healthcare

    Friday, March 11, 2022 | 4:30pm - 6:30pm ET

    This talk argues that racial segregation played a critical role in shaping the development, distribution of resources, and organization of American healthcare in cities like St. Louis, MO. Segregated Medicine builds upon extant and forthcoming histories to address the central question posed in the book’s subtitle: How did racial politics, specifically the policies and practices of racial segregation and alternatively African Americans’ adaptations to it, shape the development and evolution of the American healthcare system? Eradicating segregated medicine in the 1950s and 60s combined with economic shifts in healthcare financing failed to uproot entrenched racial inequities. Desegregating American healthcare coincided with an economic restructuring of American healthcare in the 1970s and 80s that paradoxically left many African American communities without equitable access to hospital care. Narrated from a local perspective that places the intellectual, political, and social experiences of pragmatic African Americans at the center of the story, this book traces important transitions in American healthcare and their unexamined consequences on the ground. Segregated Medicine complements existing work that has largely told this story from the national political and policy perspectives.

    Dr. Ezelle Sanford III Dr. Ezelle Sanford III is an Assistant Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University and Visiting Assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. His scholarship sits at the intersection of African American, medical, and urban histories. He is particularly interested in histories of race, science, and medicine from the 19 th century to the present.  He is currently working on a book project titled,  Segregated Medicine: How Racial Politics Shaped American Healthcare, which utilizes the case of St. Louis’s Homer G. Phillips Hospital, America’s largest segregated hospital in the mid-twentieth century, to trace how the logic and legacy of racial segregation established structures of healthcare inequality that persist to this day. His work has been featured in popular and academic publications and has received several fellowships and awards.


The first of these two events is a two-part series titled “Reimagining Public Safety”. This series will convene experts including prominent national journalists, organizers, activists, scholars, and officials from government and law enforcement for conversations about challenging historical and current problems pertaining to police reform. These discussions will be open to the CMU community as well as the public.

  • Oct 30th: The Police and Community Perspectives

    The Police and Community Perspectives

    Date: Friday, October 30, 2020
    Time: 12 - 1:15 PM ET

    This panel will discuss the critical issue of rebuilding trust between the police and the communities they are sworn to protect. The foundations of policing in the U.S. have fractured in fundamental ways, and trust must be repaired so that community members and law enforcement see themselves as authentic partners in public safety, rather than adversaries. We will discuss current research in this area as well as evidence-based alternatives and community policing models.


    Tom Jackman Tom Jackman
    Criminal Justice Reporter, The Washington Post





    Rashall BrackneyRaShall M. Brackney (DC '09, HNZ '11)
    Chief of Police, Charlottesvile, VA




    Lt. Gov. John FettermanLt. Gov. John Fetterman
    The 34th Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania




    Leon FordLeon Ford
    Activist, Author, Public Speaker
    Police shooting survivor




    Cynthia LumCynthia Lum
    Director of Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, George Mason University





  • Nov 13th: Alternative Ideas for Fundamental Change
    Alternative Ideas for Fundamental Change

    Date: Friday, November 13, 2020
    Time: 12 - 1:15 PM ET

    This virtual panel will discuss necessary reforms for reinventing public safety in America. These include fundamental structural changes in the ways police are hired and trained, reorienting the culture and incentive structures in police departments to reward building community trust, and transforming the manner of policing from a warrior to a sentinel style. Some of these reforms are already in effect in some jurisdictions, and being considered in others. We will discuss key considerations and obstacles for these proposals and address misconceptions and misleading narratives regarding such reforms.

    Opening Remarks

    Representative Susie Lee Representative Susie Lee (DC '89, HNZ '90)
    U.S. House of Representatives Nevada's 3rd district





    Ben Chapman Ben Chapman
    Criminal Justice Reporter, The Wall Street Journal





    Phil GoffPhil Goff
    Co-founder and CEO
    Center for Policing Equity




    Daniel NaginDaniel Nagin
    Teresa and H. John Heinz III University Professor of Public Policy and Statistics
    Carnegie Mellon University




    Laurie RobinsonLaurie Robinson
    Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Criminology, Law and Society
    George Mason University
    Co-Chair Obama Task Force on 21st Century Policing




    Nick TurnerNick Turner
    Vera Institute of Justice




STUDENT discussion sessions

Reimagining Public Safety Student Discussion Sessions

The Student Discussion Sessions took place on Wednesdays at 6:30pm ET following the Friday programming as part of the Heinz Reimagining Public Safety Series.

These student-led discussion sessions focused on issues discussed in the programming on the preceding Friday, gave students a venue to highlight and reflect on key topics that were discussed, point out issues or points of view that may not have been discussed, and participate in an open, safe, and inclusive conversation.

Nov. 4th, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Student Discussion:  The Police and Community Perspectives
Discussion of the critical issue of rebuilding trust between the police and the communities they are sworn to protect.

Nov. 18, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Student Discussion: Alternative Ideas for Fundamental Change
Discussion of necessary reforms for reinventing public safety in America.

A Time for Monumental Change

For this event hosted by the Master of Arts Management (MAM) Speaker Series, three interdisciplinary leaders with diverse perspectives share their experiences at the intersection of public art, history, and arts management to address the current reexamination of who we memorialize and why.

April 29, 2021

Christy S. Coleman
Executive Director, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

Kilolo Luckett
Founding Executive Director and Chief Curator, ALMA|LEWIS

Kirk Savage
Professor, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh


The Social Justice Committee, comprising student, staff, and faculty representatives, was formed in summer of 2020 to envision and design programs that engage the Heinz College community on social justice issues, utilizing the College’s relevant scholarship and evidence-based strategies to shape national discourse and policy action.


Ayana A Ledford
Amelia M Haviland
Daniel Nagin

Alex Jackson
Jeffrey Scanlon
Wasiullah Mohamed

Alexandra Lutz
Jon C Nehlsen
Jackie A Speedy

Rayid Ghani
Richard A Stafford
Silvia Borzutzky