Programmatic Responses to Current Examples of Social Injustice

Beginning with the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black teenager by a White police officer in Ferguson, MO, in August, social work programs across the country have been creating new learning and advocacy opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to strengthen preparation of students to address issues of racism and social and economic inequality. This effort has increased since the decision of the Missouri grand jury not to indict the police officer in that case and additional similar cases in Staten Island, NY, and other parts of the country. These incidents should cause us to renew our commitment to justice. Let us use the power of our positions as educators, researchers, and scholars to advocate for just policies and practices. Help us tell the story of how social work programs are preparing students to address the issues of racism and social and economic inequality. Our students are watching.

  • Alabama A&M University has launched a call to action that will provide resources to aid in decreasing chronic police brutality and abuse toward African Americans. Resources include a panel discussion on police brutality on November 20, 2014.
     
  • Boston College hosted its first diversity initiative event of the academic year. Titled Race & Justice: A Conversation With Agency Leaders for Students and Faculty, the event included a panel discussion by leading Boston-area agency executives on ways to serve increasingly diverse populations.
     
  • A letter of solidarity was released by the department of social work faculty and staff members at California State University, Northridge.
     
  • Elizabethtown College faculty has created a teach-in for their first days of classes. Faculty members have selected topics that touch on social injustice and relating them to their discipline. There are a wide variety of topics being covered such as "Minorities and the State in Contemporary China: Lessons from Ferguson" (Asian Studies); "The Gospel According to America: Black Demons and the Original Sin of Slavery" (Religion); and "19th Century Lynching, The Anti-Lynching Movement, and Ferguson" (English).
     
  • Jackson State University discussed the events in Ferguson in an integrated field seminar. Thirty-eight students were divided into four groups. Students selected envelopes containing topics for papers related to the Ferguson, MO, incident. Written instructions were given to students to discuss, develop responses, present to other classmates, and submit a summary of their work to be presented to CSWE. 
     
  • Northern Arizona University is working to establish a BASW program focusing solely on U.S/Mexico border issues and populations.
     
  • Portland State University School of Social Work faculty and staff has issued a statement of support for Ferguson. Dean Laura Burney Nissen has also published a blog post about Ferguson. 
     
  • Rhode Island College professor Dan Weisman published an op-ed in the Providence Journal (RI), also signed by 15 other faculty members, about the events in Ferguson and the need for policy changes to address racial discrimination.
     
  • San Diego State University held a community forum for students, faculty, staff, community professionals, and law enforcement to discuss the events in Ferguson and New York. The events were also discussed in classes. In March they are following this up with an all-school day to celebrate Social Work Month with local social work leaders leading discussions on social justice.
     
  • Simmons College School of Social Work (SSW) faculty has issued an official statement on the events in Ferguson. SSW also created a space where students, faculty members, and staff could leave thoughts and messages, highlight SSW community activities, and share information about national and international activities and protests. Members of the faculty had their photo taken in the "Hands Up—Don't Shoot" pose; Simmons students are planning a similar photo. Simmons BSW students helped organize a roving protest that went across the Colleges of the Fenway (Simmons, Wheelock, Emmanuel, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Massachusetts College of Art). SSW professor Gary Bailey published two pieces regarding the grand jury decision: one in Bay Windows (the regional LGBT newspaper) and an op-ed in the Huffington Post.
     
  • Smith College has released an official statement on the events in Ferguson.
     
  • The University of Georgia School of Social Work’s annual student-run Parham Policy Day, held November 18, examined the legal and social implications of the racial profiling of impoverished, disenfranchised people of color. In collaboration with the UGA Center for Social Justice, Human and Civil Rights, the school sponsored a forum on December 1 for faculty, students, and staff on how systemic racism and poverty contribute to societal problems and how social workers can advance the cause of social justice. Some faculty used class time to further the discussion, while others participated in a peaceful march held on December 2 in Athens, GA. Several faculty are collecting feedback from the discussions to develop plans for education and action, which will be shared via e-mail and social media (#SSWForFerguson).
     
  • University of Michigan will host a panel discussion on January 19 called "Policing Black Bodies: A dialogue on Poverty, Police Brutality, and the Way Out." The panel will lead a dialogue on the underlying racial tensions and the ways in which a new generation of activism can provide a way forward.
     
  • University of Missouri–St. Louis is working with agencies located in Ferguson to ensure that they will have a long-term involvement in the community. Through the Creating Whole Communities project (a school-University of Missouri initiative), the school is working with Ferguson to support and train potential community leaders. The program's coordinator has also been working with the Ferguson Youth Initiative to provide opportunities for youth to interact with Ferguson police in ways that will facilitate understanding.
  • The University of South Carolina shared articles and posts with faculty members and encouraged them to discuss the events in Ferguson with their students. Ongoing activities and awareness-raising actions are planned, along with the establishment of an electronic mailing list to continue the dialogue over time.
     
  • The University of Southern California will host a two-part brown-bag series at the San Diego Academic Center in November 2014 and April 2015. The series, to be called Institutional Racism and the Social Work Ramifications, will educate attendees regarding new forms of systemic racism and discuss ways to confront these racialized areas of concern.
     
  • Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University took part in peaceful protests, walkouts, and community actions across town. Meanwhile, professors in related disciplines—sociology, social work, and criminal justice—quickly adapted their syllabi to address the history that continued to unfold on their doorsteps.