A Message From the Interim Dean on Advancing Social Work Values

The NYU Silver School of Social Work has long been committed to turning crises into social progress. Today, we find ourselves at a time where many of our community members, neighbors, and allies across the city, country, and globe are facing daunting fears and realities of deportation, incarceration, loss of rights and liberties, and physical and psychological harm. We should not tacitly accept this reality. We must stand strong in supporting our communities—people of color, women, queer, transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, people with disabilities, documented and undocumented immigrants, Muslims and those with ties to the Middle East, and many others—that have long been discriminated against and unfairly targeted in the United States and around the world.

At the Silver School, we are inextricably linked to the welfare and well-being of our stakeholders, communities, clients, and country. This includes the many vulnerable members of the Silver and larger NYU communities whose safety and well-being we so deeply care about. We acknowledge NYU president Andrew Hamilton’s statement regarding the executive order on immigration, and agree that NYU should be a safe campus for all members of our community—students, staff, and scholars alike—across NYU’s global network. The school has joined the Faculty of Color Caucus and other centers and organizations around the NYU campus and nationwide in the belief that “sanctuary is solidarity” and embrace the principles surrounding NYU as a sanctuary campus. Social workers, as a group, are firmly committed to preserving the basic human rights of people made most vulnerable by ideological and material systems of inequality, and we aim to uphold this commitment at Silver.

The mission of the Silver School is to alleviate human suffering, enhance the vitality and caring capacity of communities, and promote the ideals of a humane and just world. Consistent with these ideals, I support the statement issued by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) after the 2016 presidential election and share NASW’s opposition to the recent version of the American Health Care Act, which would have left millions of the most vulnerable Americans without health insurance coverage. I also join the NASW in calling on our social work colleagues across the country to uphold our professional Code of Ethics, particularly the core value of social justice. I believe that we have a responsibility to push our social work colleagues to clearly and bravely name injustices as they arise, whether big or small. This requires embracing an activist vocabulary against white supremacy, anti-black racism, misogyny, and xenophobia—a vocabulary that demands pointed discussions on the pressing issues of our time. We need to encourage direct action to counter and resist the systematic undoing of decades of organizing and activism. I also challenge our social work colleagues to acknowledge and work to resist long-standing systems of oppression that are broadly and deeply engrained in our society.

It is my belief that scholarship and research are critical components of social justice. Social work research is inevitably purpose-driven and should strive for the betterment of all. As educators, we should continue to prepare social workers and future scholars with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote a more just society and world. Social work is a discipline of advocacy and social change. Silver is now home to an organizing community dedicated to information sharing, planning, and action in response to injustices in the current political environment.

I also support and encourage the many different ways that we as community members can be actively engaged in our changing political environment. I urge all in our Silver community to be kind to yourselves and each other. Organize your communities, show up, listen well, and join others as critical allies when called upon. Call your legislators, and educate others about the implications of policy changes that affect the most vulnerable in our communities, and therefore us all.

Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to push past the comfort of complacency, and recommit ourselves to social work’s roots in social justice and advocacy. At Silver, we commit ourselves to the dignity and worth of every person. I invite you to join us in a renewal of the spirit of social work for social justice.


James Jaccard
Interim Dean and Professor