University Social Responsibility: An Experience With Temporary Immigrants

Abstract

This article intends to get at the heart of questions such as: Should the university be involved in social change and contribute to an informed public? Should it teach students about the causes of the migratory phenomenon and encourage them to get involved in improving the challenging conditions of some immigrants?. The SAFA University Centre has tried to answer these questions by applying an interdepartmental “UAC” ( Manzano, 2012 ), “Unidad de Acción Comprometida” in spanish (Committed Action Unit), through the project titled "Temporary Immigrants in the province of Jaén: Opportunity for Awareness and Commitment" approved by the University of Jaén (Spain). This project is based on three pillars: teaching, research and action. De la Cruz, Manzano, Pedrosa & Soto, Gordo, Felicidades, & Menor and Soto & Pedrosa have focused their research on the need to transform the university into a more socially committed institution. They believe this has to be done from the university as a whole in order to encourage social action and justice based on solidarity. In this article a compendium of activities are presented that focus both on exploring the underlying problems of the migrant phenomena and in appreciating cultural diversity as a source of societal richness. These were designed for the undergraduate Primary School and Preschool Teaching degree program students. In short, this project is committed to the analysis of the migrant phenomenon and to general awareness-raising in order to improve the living conditions of migrants in Jaen.

Keywords: Immigrationsensitizationsocial commitmentUnity of Committed Action

Introduction

We start by questioning if the university should become involved in social change and in the encouragement of an informed public by presenting some basic strategies that are fundamental in raising awareness and involving the university in social causes.

In order to work towards social transformation through academic training, we see the university as an open institution that should foster an active role for students, guided by teachers in the learning process (Gadamer, 2000). Our intention is thus to expose university students to the precarious conditions of seasonal immigrant workers in order to raise awareness and social transformation through a socio-cultural constructivism in which it is possible to share cultural codes and the sharing of knowledge by participating in symbolic activities. By doing so, we expect the student to interact with their social environment as a shared experience (Serrano & Pons, 2011).

Our intention is not only to understand this reality in an only intellectual way, but also to let ourselves by affected by it, to let it permeate, and thus be able to transform it (Soto & Pedrosa 2017).

In order to achieve these objectives, an interuniversity participatory action research project was presented by a group of professors from the University Center SAFA Úbeda, entitled: "Temporary Immigrants in the Province of Jaén: Opportunity for Awareness and Commitment", financed by the Vice-Rector for Strategic Planning, Quality and Social Responsibility of the UJA. This project uses the “Unidad de Acción Comprometida” (Committed Action Unit), as a tool to raise awareness through teaching, research and action. In this way, we hope to delve into the structural and systemic causes of migration and learn about the inequalities and the homelessness condition of Úbeda’s seasonal migrants (Manzano, Pedrosa, & Soto, 2017).

University Social Responsibility (USR)

Ramallo (2015) understands University Social Responsibility (RSU) as a "the university’s ethical quality management policy that seeks to align its management-teaching-research processes with its values and social commitment through community participation..” (p. 26).

The RSU is not a new concept but has become more popular in recent years. An example of this would be “The University Strategy 2015”, an agreement carried out by the Ministry of Education in coordination with Spain’s Autonomous Communities and Universities, which seeks to renew university education and research to meet social demands. The 2015 University Strategy, specifically for Spanish universities, emphasizes sustainability alongside efforts to promote an active citizenry who are committed to combating social problems.

Bearing in mind what the USR, the university adaptation process to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the university modernization policies imply, we must take the university professor model into account, and specifically on what and how to transmit knowledge that reflect the aforementioned university goals.

Along these lines, the SAFA University Center Úbeda is responsible for carrying out a “UAC” (Committed Action Unit) in order to raise students’ awareness about immigration issues through various courses where the sociocultural adjacency towards teaching and learning processes represents a new ontological and epistemological vision, where learning is not a mere process of transmission-reception, but of construction of knowledge and meanings (Díaz-Barriga, 2006). All this in order to move towards more sustainable and just societies, where the training of university students allows us to manifest the desired social reality and an involvement in solving real world problems, In this way, university students will be contributing to a more aware, responsible and participatory citizenry, without isolating themselves within the world in which they find themselves.

University responses to the social demands of immigration

If we review the data from Spain’s Social Security record (2018), there are currently 1,836,173 foreigners registered. Because of the precarious situation many immigrants find themselves in, there is a significant displacement of seasonal workers throughout the region, Spain being one of the most affected by this phenomenon within the Mediterranean basin (Pérez-Serrano & Sarrate-Capdevila 2013; Cernadas, Santos Rego, & Lorenzo, 2013). Another aspect that negatively affects the immigrant worker is the high demand for agricultural work by the native population due to the economic crisis in recent years (Hernández Morán, 2018). Proof of this is the reduction of registered foreign people, going from 202,622 in 2008 to 74,030 in 2018, which is 38.19% of the total of foreigners affiliated with Social Security in the month of December 2017. Even so, and focusing on Úbeda in particular, the data of the Ministry of Employment and Social Security corresponding to the months of the 2016-2017 olive harvest are quite positive, doubling the number of Social Security registrations for the immigrant population. However, it is difficult to know the exact number of seasonal workers since we would have include those foreigners who are not working regularly and are not in the system (Manzano, Pedrosa, & Soto, 2017).

Cabanillas (2016) highlights the lack of resources needed for the basic immigrants needs like housing and hygiene. In addition, through the analysis of labour and social-economic data of immigrants in the country (Galiano, 2005; González & González, 2009; Gordo, Felicidades, & Menor, 2013; Comisión Provincial Especial Permanente de Inmigración, 2006; Agrela, 2008; OPAM, 2015; Sánchez Pérez, 2006), a diagnosis was carried out which led to the “UAC” entitled "Temporary Immigrants in the Province of Jaén: Opportunity for Awareness and Commitment."

At the start of this project we wanted to answer three questions; What do we want to transform? What do we need to know? What do we need to investigate? These questions helped to clarify what and how we wanted to work in response to the real needs of both students and immigrants and society in general (Soto and Pedrosa, 2017). From these three questions arose both the overall objective and the three specific objectives for our project. They are defined as follows:

  • Overall objective: To use the university as a platform to encourage a more aware, responsible and committed public.

  • Specific objectives:

  • To understand the migratory phenomenon and the reality of temporary immigrants in the city of Úbeda.

  • To raise awareness with the community at large, and with our undergraduate students (Education Major) about the living conditions of immigrants in Úbeda.

  • To improve the precarious condition that many temporary immigrants in Úbeda endure.

Using the USR concept and our own project objectives, the proposed initiatives designed to involve students and make them aware of their role in social transformation were mainly four:

  • Student awareness training

  • Preparation of a pedagogical resource guide to aid in awareness-raising and social transformation

  • Awareness-raising initiatives within the SAFA University Centre and the city of Úbeda

  • Spreading the word about the project

Pedagogy of commitment from the different courses

Based on an IAP (Action-Participation Research, in Spanish “Investigación Acción Participativa”), the project focuses on an active, interdepartmental and inter-institutional methodology of longitudinal cut, where because of the complexity and variety of initiatives, it is foreseen that it will take 4 years to obtain any significant results. Therefore, at this time we present only one of the tasks that are being worked on within this project, which is sensitizing Primary School and Preschool Teaching degree programs students. In the 2016-2017 academic year a questionnaire was given out to all the first-year Pre-school and Primary Education undergraduate students. This questionnaire was intended to measure the degree of awareness, participation and commitment to immigration in general and towards the seasonal immigrants in Úbeda in particular. The results of the pre-test will be correlated with those of the post-test, which will take place in the 2019-2020 academic year, when they finish their studies at the SAFA University Centre. In this way we can verify if the activities carried out in the courses by the teachers have served to achieve the proposed objectives.

Bearing in mind the goal of working towards a tangible social transformation, it is necessary to establish the general objective as reference for all the courses. In this way the teachers will be able to design more specific learning and execution goals.

In addition, a common methodology characterized by its participatory and innovative nature where students develop their understanding in a reflective and critical manner will also be agreed upon. The end goal is to help encourage change in the way of thinking, acquiring, communicating and applying knowledge (Moncada and Torres 2016).

In order to unify these criteria an internal document was created which served as a guide for teachers to implement their proposed activities in relation to the project. There were eight sections: 1) Description of practice; 2) Description of general and specific objectives; 3) specific execution objectives based on the main questions raised for this research: action objectives (what do we want to transform?), learning objectives (what do we need to know?) and building knowledge objectives (what do we need to investigate?); 4) Practical development in two parts: a) Motivation and b) Implementation; 5) Expected findings; 6) Timeline; 7) Assessment criteria (percentage on the general mark) and 8) Bibliography.

Conclusion

The following conclusions summarize the initiatives and activities carried out to raise the awareness among SAFA’s university students.

Starting from the general objective shared in all the courses (to use the university as a platform to encourage a more aware, responsible and committed citizenry, aiding in the transformation of seasonal immigrants’ reality in the city of Ubeda), the following proposals emerged:

Table 1 -
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Each of the teachers responsible for the aforementioned courses did an assessment of the activities carried out, which were later reflected in the student’s final marks.

References

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09 April 2019

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Multicultural education, education, personal health, public health, social discrimination,social inequality

Cite this article as:

Arrondo, V. M., Soto, J. L. S., & Vico*, B. P. (2019). University Social Responsibility: An Experience With Temporary Immigrants. In E. Soriano, C. Sleeter, M. Antonia Casanova, R. M. Zapata, & V. C. Cala (Eds.), The Value of Education and Health for a Global, Transcultural World, vol 60. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 283-289). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2019.04.02.36