Dear School of Social Welfare Community,
As resilient and devoted social workers, our everlasting and resourceful nature helped us face the racial strife and global health pandemic of 2020. We also acted as forward-thinking leaders of social change on the frontlines of schools, community centers, and medical centers. Even when feeling deflated, we found strength driven by our social work values that “strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty and other forms of social injustices.”
Just a week ago, a new year promised excitement and renewed hope for a better future. However, the events that occurred in the US Capitol Building on January 6 demonstrated deliberate, violent, and unlawful actions of groups and individuals responding to messages from powerful leaders meant to foment harm and terror. Witnessing actions that led to the emergency evacuation of the Capitol Building, physical destruction to federal property, the tragic deaths of five people, and injuries to many others has been horrific. The School of Social Welfare joins the KU Chancellor, Provost and Interim Vice Provost in condemning such actions.
As heartbreaking as these abhorrent behaviors are to so many of us, it is important to recognize that many people of color, people of marginalized identities, and allies have been calling out this type of extremist behavior for years—indeed, for generations. Videos and photos made us witnesses to disparate reactions from authorities to this gathering, comprised mainly of white people, compared to large shows of force continually experienced by black groups. Nonviolent protesters have reminded us that the inability of local and federal authorities to protect the Capitol Building, elected officials, and those who work inside was both a failure to keep the peace and a painful reminder of the power of white privilege in this country.
As educators, we must stress the importance of respect for each other and nonviolence—especially during times of heated debate. Maintaining a critical perspective is one of our six social work values. We honor and support the use of critical inquiry to analyze and challenge existing structures in order to advance the field and promote social, economic and environmental justice. You may not always agree with your neighbor or your classmate, but it is imperative to maintain respect at the heart of everything we do as social workers. Violence will not solve disagreements. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are instructive: “We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself.”
As social work leaders and mentors, we have a duty to promote the importance of social change. We must advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Social work is social justice. We took an oath to “enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.” Our mission as a School states that we “aim to transform lives and social contexts and promote social, economic, and environmental justice in Kansas, the nation and the world.” These are our values. These values fuel our continued commitment to ensuring a socially just future.
We acknowledge that emotions are running high and that it may be difficult to navigate through your feelings right now. Please take solace from friends, trusted co-workers and mentors at KU. Please remember there are resources and counseling services available for students and for employees at the University. Please reach out if there is anything that we can do to help: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are in this together.
Michelle Mohr Carney, PhD, MSSA
Dean & Professor
Jason Matejkowski, PhD, MSW
Associate Professor & Associate Dean for Academic Programs
Amy N. Mendenhall, PhD, MSW
Professor & Associate Dean for Research & Faculty Development
Director, Center for Community Engagement & Collaboration
Kim Warren, PhD
Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, School of Social Welfare
Associate Professor of History, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Fellow, Center for Teaching Excellence