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Update on Action Steps Announced at the School’s Forum on Racism and Discrimination

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Faculty Executive Committee of the KU School of Social Welfare

Update on Action Steps Announced at the School’s
Forum on Racism and Discrimination 

March 1, 2016

In December 2015, the Faculty Executive Committee announced commitment to encourage initiatives within our School that address issues of racism and justice. This is an update of our progress on those activities to date. The Faculty Executive Committee membership is elected by the faculty to assist in matters of School policies and procedures. 

On behalf of the entire faculty of the KUSSW, we want everyone to know that we take our profession’s values and ethical principles seriously, and hold ourselves accountable for their realization in our own School and classrooms. We are committed to working with students and staff to better promote the value of social justice in our community, while at the same time upholding all of the values in our Code of Ethics, including “respecting the inherent dignity and worth of all persons” and “recognizing the central importance of human relationships”. 

In addition to the formal efforts described below, faculty have led discussions in classrooms and have devoted many hours to meeting informally with students, both individually and in relation to groups such as the Toni Johnson Office of Race and Social Justice, the Student Activism Committee, the BSW Student Group,, and the Multicultural Scholars Program. A recent two day faculty and staff strategic planning retreat was dominated by honest and heartfelt discussion of recent events in relation to the mission of our School and to core social work values. 

The following initiatives have engaged many faculty persons, staff, administrators, and students. As part of these efforts, the School recently established the Toni Johnson Office of Race and Social Justice (ORSJ), in honor of our beloved colleague, Dr. Toni Johnson who recently passed. A description of ORSJ and its activities is attached at the end of this statement. 

  1. Prioritize recruitment, hiring, and retention of faculty of color in cooperation with the administration and Faculty Search Committee. 
    1. We relayed this commitment to the faculty as a whole, the administration, and the Search Committee. The Chair of the Search Committee has committed that the committee will review recruitment procedures, including any possible structural issues and barriers, with the goal of developing a plan that can be implemented the next time we start a search. 
  2. Engage in review of our master syllabi for courses, as well as the field education curriculum, to identify specific ways in which the educational content can be strengthened with respect to race, diversity, social justice, and social action. 
    1. The chair of the PhD Program Committee initiated a review of course syllabi by the instructors and the Doctoral Program Curriculum Committee, which includes faculty and students, in order to generate substantive innovations. This is in progress and will be completed for the Fall courses by May 2016 and for the Spring courses by December 2016. During this semester, the PhD committee will discuss ways to improve the overall climate in the program and will sponsor a “brown bag’ focused on how faculty and doctoral students incorporate race and social justice issues into their research. 
    2. During 2012-2015, the MSW Program Committee and the Program Chair completed review of all 35 master syllabi as part of our ongoing efforts to innovate in response to professional education standards, including issues of diversity and social justice. They also constructed multiple measures to assess whether the program is succeeding in those learning goals. Faculty in the various MSW curriculum areas are encouraged to meet and discuss educational process and delivery of the curriculum, going beyond just the content of syllabi. In particular, the Policy curriculum area group and the MSW Program Committee will be exploring ways to increase student attainment of skills to promote social justice in the weeks to come, and will suggest ways to improve this outcome for the 2016-2017 academic year. 
    3. Beginning January 2016, the BSW Program Chair and the BSW Curriculum Committee have begun reviewing the master syllabi at monthly meetings, focusing on topic issues of social justice, race, diversity, and social action. This process is planned for completion by the end of Fall semester 2016. 
    4. The director of Field Education has initiated the following: 1) Meeting with our Field Education Student Advisory Board (and any other student who has experiences, resources, or ideas to offer), as well as our field liaisons and field instructors, in early 2016 to discuss how Field Education can be more engaged, proactive, and responsive to the needs of students of color and other marginalized students. 2) Participate in the cultural competency and microaggression training and seek out additional resources specific to Field Education. 3) Incorporate cultural competency and microaggression content into our required field instructor orientation for 2016 to 2017. 4) Work with field instructors at our Spring 2016 field forum on ways to integrate activism, advocacy and community organizing into practicum experiences. 5) Continue our work with AAAC to ensure that practicum is accessible and safe for students with disabilities, and provide policy and training to field instructors and students as we establish more inclusive practices. 6) Starting immediately, begin each field team meeting with a discussion about the experiences of our students and the status of the steps we have listed here. All of this is in progress. 
  3. Develop policies and procedures for students to express concerns and seek corrective action in a safe and respectful process regarding experiences of racism, discrimination, and marginalization in the classroom and in the School. 
    1. See the description of activities of the Toni Johnson Office of Race and Social Justice at the end of this statement. We believe that this long overdue initiative will provide the structure and resources for a permanent, ongoing, institutionalized commitment to improve our school. 
  4. Enlist the faculty to re-examine the four themes (diversity, social and economic justice, strengths, and critical perspective) that guide our School’s curriculum and how we can more fully live up to them and strengthen them, especially in regard to anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and anti-colonialist practice. 
    1. This has been underway last semester and this semester through a series of faculty meetings and retreats scheduled by the Dean and this committee. 
  5. Support the provision of microaggression training widely for the School community. A training was conducted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs for faculty persons in January 2016. 

We view these formal efforts as a renewed beginning in the long-term work of promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity. We, the faculty, are committed to taking part in this work, and welcome ongoing discussions of and action toward our shared goals with all members of the School community. 

KUSSW Faculty Executive Committee (on behalf of the faculty)
Edward Canda, Chair
Juliana Carlson
Terri Friedline
Jason Matejkowski
Chris Petr 


Dedication of 

The Toni Johnson Office of Race and Social Justice (ORSJ) 

The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare (KUSSW) dedicates The Toni Johnson Office of Race and Social Justice to our beloved colleague, friend, and professor, Toni K. Johnson. As a member of the KUSSW faculty from 2005-2016, Dr. Johnson committed her life to social, racial, and economic justice for youth and their families. In all aspects of her professional life - practitioner, researcher, educator - Dr. Johnson aspired to be a social change agent to increase the inclusion and equity of all people, with a particular focus on African American families. As the Director for the Multicultural Scholars Program, she devoted her energies to supporting and mentoring students from diverse backgrounds. Dr. Johnson received the W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in 2010 and the Gene A. and Gretchen Budig Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2012. The Office represents KUSSW’s commitment to move Dr. Johnson’s life work forward by promoting student activism and engaged scholarship in the areas of race and social justice. 


  1. January 29, 2016 
    1. Dr. Larry Davis, Dean at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the book, Why Are They Angry With Us? Over 165 attended the event and it can be watched at
  2. April 21 at 4:00 pm in the Kansas Union  
    1. Dr. Georgiann Davis, Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Las Vegas 
      1. Dr. Davis' research is social justice oriented and at the intersection of sociology of diagnosis and gender theories. She has published papers on intersex traits as well as medical specialization, and her findings have appeared in numerous outlets ranging from the American Journal of Bioethics to Ms. Magazine. She has also presented papers at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, National Women’s Studies Association, Midwest Sociological Society, Society for the Study of Social Problems, and Sociologists for Women in Society. ​

Task Forces (Areas of Focus for Spring 2016) 

The Toni Johnson Office of Race and Social Justice (ORSJ) is seeking to use task forces to accomplish its identified goals for this semester. Faculty, staff, and students are eligible to participate on these task forces even if they are not ORSJ committee members. We want to provide maximum opportunity for the SSW community at KU to be involved in ORSJ. Initially, there will be a Student Support Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion, a Task Force on Identifying Student Mental Health Resources, and a Task Force on Research. Each is described below: 

I. Student Support Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion 

The purpose of the Student Support Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion is to establish and foster minority student supportive services and resources that will promote inclusivity, valuing of diversity, academic excellence, social engagement, personal development, leadership skills, and an equitable school climate. Students of color, international students, and other minority/underrepresented students within the School of Social Welfare will be the focal groups for this initiative. Within these efforts international students and first generation college students may have specific needs related to their unique status. There is a more immediate need in our school for enhanced communication regarding minority student supportive resource acquisition and the development of minority social connections to increase a welcoming and affirming experience rather than an isolating or disconnected environment. Therefore, services and resources will be developed to cultivate greater minority student success, connection, and inclusion across key academic phases and transitions from pre-admission to graduation. A subgroup of this particular task force will also assess and identify strategies and resources to enhance the supportive services for our students who experience mental health issues. 

In the very short run and as a starting point the Student Support Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion is charged with addressing a strategy to decrease minority disconnection and isolation by developing, coordinating and scheduling a “Diversity Meet and Greet “event or diversity networking orientation within the next 12 weeks. We will also need to create a current inventory of relevant services and resources to share with diverse students. It would probably be a good idea to establish a diversity “safe place” procedure in which students would be able to share their concerns or questions regarding micro-aggressions, intolerance, and other minority-based struggles. This could be a great resource to share with students and a way of sending a strong message of sensitivity, responsiveness, and affirmation. 

Students from underrepresented and diverse populations will be invited to attend this event for an intimate and welcoming opportunity to meet with other diverse students from a variety of identities, as well as faculty and staff. During this time they will able to learn about The Toni Johnson Office for Race and Social Justice as well as other relevant services and resources within the school and throughout the university. 

II. Task Force for Identifying Mental Health Resources 

ORSJ is also initiating a task force to explore the resources currently available at the University of Kansas for students with mental illnesses. A short-term product of this task force will be a report that will: 1) examine current resources available; 2) evaluate their adequacy to support the diverse needs of students with a mental illness, particularly students of color; 3) explore best practices for supporting students with mental illness; and 4) develop a set of recommendations for consideration by the University of Kansas. Once a list of current resources are identified, another short-term product this task force will help produce is a section on the Office’s yet to be developed web page that provides students with easy access to the types of mental health resources available to students at the University. 

III. Research Task Force 

The office is seeking individuals to join us on the Research task force to establish the research arm of the office. At this time, we anticipate several research-related projects taking place within this task force and the office. First, we aim to engage with faculty, staff, and students about the work they are doing around Black families, as well as future work they hope to do, and then coordinate the development of a literature review on the state of Black families. This is in line with an endowment given to the school in Toni Johnson’s name. Second, we plan to engage with faculty, staff, and students to determine the race/ethnicity and social justice issues they are addressing in their projects. Third, we aim to share this information with the school in order to promote the importance of social justice work being done in the KU SSW and promote collaborations with colleagues and students on this work. 

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