Dean Neil B. Guterman on Solidarity and Action
On June 11, 2020, NYU Silver Dean Neil B. Guterman sent the following message to NYU Silver students, faculty, staff, and alumni:
Dear Members of the Silver School Community:
Tuesday marked the funeral and burial of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed at the hands of the police, part of a long legacy of police violence and brutality against Black citizens. Members of our Silver community are hurting from the daily impact of anti-Black racism that permeates their lives.
Many faculty and staff at the Silver School joined with me in standing in solidarity with those protesting against anti-Black violence and racism by observing #ShutDownSTEM #ShutDownAcademia #Strike4BlackLives. It was one of ways that I and members of our community are expressing our shared anguish and anger at the abhorrent acts of police violence and anti-Black racism that we continue to witness in our nation.
Standing in solidarity, however, must translate beyond a day of observation and protest and be manifested in action. Activism against social injustice has been a core part of our profession since its inception. Participating in calls to end police violence and racism in solidarity with Black Lives Matter is social work. Demands to reform, rebuild, and reprioritize public resources away from crime-and-punishment toward proactive, supportive strategies that strengthen communities, families, and individuals is social work.
Self-reflection is also social work. If we as social workers are to respond and take a more prominent role in strengthening and serving communities, we must also take up leadership and work to eradicate racism in our own “house.” Our recent Silver School statement exhorted members of the Silver School community to actively take an anti-racist stance, to push past silence and complacency, and to take up leadership actions against racism. The School affirmed this stance and made a strategic commitment last year when we owned that we must actively dismantle our own racism at Silver, and we have taken some important steps forward on this commitment, including launching a new anti-racist training at orientation; establishing an inaugural Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, now led by Director Richeleen Dashield; establishing an inclusive pedagogy and peer consultation support vehicle to strengthen our instructors’ teaching, led by Professors Linda Lausell Bryant and Doris Chang; and strengthening our MSW admissions reviews so they more prominently consider applicants’ commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We still have work to do on these Action Against Racism commitments, and will continue to provide updates as we forge further progress.
We must do more still however. To that end, I am taking the following immediate actions:
- Directing our School’s educational program directors to carry out a review and revision of our hiring, onboarding, support, and evaluation practices for Silver School instructors around inclusive pedagogy;
- Charging our School’s newly established Pedagogy Support Group to prepare and submit to me a plan to implement anti-racism and inclusion pedagogy development and training for all our School’s instructors;
- Requesting completion and launch of our School-based bias response protocol (now in development) by the start of the 2020-2021 academic year;
- Supporting the creation of a Faculty and Staff of Color Affinity Group to provide space for collaboration and community and to discuss shared experiences with the School’s leadership;
- Tasking our School’s Senior Leadership Team (Deans and Directors) with participating in NYU’s Global Inclusive Leadership Management Institute to help shift our leadership practices and decision-making to foster inclusion, equity, and diversity throughout the School; and
- Establishing a new racial equity scholarship fund at the Silver School to support Silver students who are committed to advancing racial justice in their social work careers.
Our faculty are actively playing leading roles in advancing racial equity in our own profession and here at NYU. For example, Professors Darcey Merritt, Ernest Gonzales, and Jennifer Manuel recently co-authored the Society for Social Work and Research’s call to social work scholars throughout the nation to urgently reflect and act to dismantle racism in our social policies, practices, and profession (SSWR call to action). Professor Michael Lindsey will be co-teaching a course in the Fall on systemic and structural racism for NYU’s Big Ideas Series on Race and Inequality, open to all NYU students. Professor Kirk “Jae” James is speaking this evening at a University-wide panel event at 7:00 p.m. addressing “Blackness, Racism, and Protest: Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future,” which I encourage you to join.
The School will continue to hold listening sessions for all members of the community to hear not only about your experiences in and outside Silver, but also to hear your ideas for propelling our progress against racism at Silver and within our profession. We will continue to communicate about these opportunities throughout the summer, and into the next year.
We must work with urgency to repair longstanding wounds, to actively prevent further injury, to support and uplift one another, to strengthen our resolve and resilience, and to act with a clear sense of our highest ideals as social workers.
Neil B. Guterman
Action Against Racism
In 2019, NYU Silver identified a number of steps and commitments to actively dismantle racism and build a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse School.