Dear School of Social Work Community,
In the latest National Association of Social Workers-Maryland Chapter’s (NASW-MD) quarterly newsletter an Op-Ed was published calling into question the efforts and commitments to diversity and racial equity that the School has in its teaching, curriculum, hiring and promotion, and anti-racist efforts. A link to the original Op-Ed can be found here (see top of page 4).
The NASW-MD also published the School’s response to the opinion piece—written several weeks ago. It can be found here (bottom of page 4). I hope that the response and this message leaves no doubt that I take these concerns very seriously.
The School of Social Work is moving forward on many fronts of common concern with the letter writers and those who want us to be a school that is more inclusive and promotes the success of all. I am very pleased that:
· We have reached agreement to hire five new tenured and tenure track faculty, including our first female African American full professor. We have at least two other additional faculty searches, with quite diverse applicant pools, underway.
· The Social Work Administrators Group (SWAG) has created a “design team” to advance the development of a Staff Council. We have continued to improve the pipeline for staff who are seeking higher levels of employment.
· Our Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion planning has met and will be developing recommendations (and indicators of change) across many areas in the near future.
· We are discussing three required courses that focus on diversity and oppression: (1) a required online history of oppression course; (2) a required foundation course on diversity and anti-oppression that will provide concepts that will be reinforced across the entire curriculum; and (3) a related field seminar. (These courses have not obtained final faculty approval but are on a steady path forward and I have identified the financing for their development and teaching.)
· The Diversity and Anti-Oppression (DAO) Committee is establishing a schedule of school wide trainings on implicit bias, among other topics.
I respect the concerns raised in this op-ed and look forward to working with the writers and the entire social work community in our ongoing and proactive efforts to improve diversity and inclusion across all domains of the School. I hope for a time when we have a School of Social Work that makes every student feel welcome and every alum convinced that they were well educated to achieve our school’s goal to strengthen society, for all. We are clearly not there, yet. I will work with the deans, faculty and staff leadership, and communications team to continuously provide updates and information about our ongoing efforts to address diversity and structural racism. More detailed communications about these efforts will be forthcoming soon.
I have been working closely with President Perman and Senior Vice President Ward to discuss our work on and off campus. They, as I, were concerned about the op-ed’s message that we did not have an adequate procedure for responding to Title VII complaints (which are handled at the level of the Office of the President). UMB unequivocally prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, marital status, protected veteran's status, or age. Committed to being free of unlawful discrimination, UMB has strict policies and procedures for receiving and reviewing complaints of discrimination. This response occurs at an institutional level and is done in compliance of, and consistent with, federal and state law. All complaints are taken seriously and reviewed individually. To make a complaint of race-based discrimination, an individual should contact Mikhel A. Kushner, JD, MSW, Executive Director, Diversity and Inclusion. Her contact information is https://www.umaryland.edu/oac/. Complaints may also be made via our Hotline (found on the SSW home page).
I view this exchange of ideas in the newsletter as part of a long and healthy process of advancing our Schools goals—more specifically those we aspire to accomplish regarding diversity, inclusion, and racial justice. I believe that this process will strengthen the SSW's environment and implicit curriculum and be a positive tool for communicating with our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and others, about the path to improve these critically important outcomes. I believe that the significant work on related diversity and inclusion issues and addressing racism are fundamental to our efforts to strengthen society. I wish to reassure the entire UM SSW community of our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and a welcoming environment for all.
Most sincerely yours,
Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW
Dean and Past-President of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare
University of Maryland School of Social Work