Social justice and equity town hall summary

The School of Social Work hosted an initial town hall on April 2, 2021 in recognition of the need for the school to examine how it is doing in regards to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within curriculum and school culture. From that town hall, there were several takeaways:


  • Language is important. The terms diversity, equity, and inclusion are common buzz words used by institutions. They are often used without full and collective understanding of their meaning, may dilute the work that is needed, and may serve to simply check a box rather than create meaningful change. Diversity, equity and inclusion are terms adopted by the larger University and the school of social work defaulted to use these terms initially. How we understand and name our work remains to be negotiated. 
  • Efforts need to go beyond inclusion and diversity. They need to actively promote equity, social justice, anti-oppression, anti-racism and decolonization. Dominant narratives need to be decentered. 
  • Faculty were encouraged to explore how other schools of social work are fostering social justice,  anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices and culture (Humbolt, University of Michigan, etc)


  • There were discussions about adding a required course on power, privilege and oppression for the MSW program (BSW program has a required course on diversity). Feedback on this included:
    • Creating a required course for MSW students caters to those with privilege. This can place the burden of educating and creating space for privileged folks back on those holding marginalized identities. 
    • MSW students expressed concerns over the already-limited number of electives in the program.
    • Many people voiced a preference for all courses to better integrate anti-oppressive frameworks and discussions around intersectional practices and behaviors. 
  • More needs to be done to ensure those holding marginalized identities are not constantly looked to to lead discussions around diversity. 
  • Students asked how the school is teaching about the history of social work, which is inherently rooted in discrimination, oppression, and white supremecy (i.e “white saviorism”). 
  • Increase articles, guest presenters, and trainings from diverse perspectives, experiences, and identities. 
  • It was requested that faculty be more open about their own subject positions and how those might shape/limit their expertise on some topics. 
  • Students asked for more specific electives addressing decolonization, anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices (i.e. Decolonizing Therapy)

Follow-up & Next Steps

  • A committee is being formed to focus on concerns and suggestions expressed during the town hall. Students who are interested in participating should email Kayla Rodriguez, MSW Distance Program Coordinator, and Dr. Robin Russel, Professor for the School of Social Work, 
  • We recognize that some students may not want to and/or may not be able to participate in a committee. Therefore, other avenues for input and participation have been created:
    • A student led and student only town hall is being coordinated for May 2nd. An email was sent to all students on April 8th, 2021 with a Zoom link and invitation 
    • A platform for submitting suggestions, thoughts, feedback, etc. has been created, which will offer an option for anonymous submission. The feedback form is available online