Facing What Needs To Be Changed: Moving Forward

Dear Colleagues and Students,

I am writing to update you on the actions we have undertaken as we hold ourselves accountable as an institution, and as a community, in creating a learning environment that fully integrates a just practice framework across our curriculum, field experiences, and community partnerships.

In June, we convened two faculty and staff meetings dedicated to this necessary work. These meetings were extraordinarily well-attended. They have been accompanied by formative conversations with students, alumni, and community partners.We move forward with a collective recommitment to the ethical imperatives and social justice mandate of our Social Work profession. We move also with the understanding that our present mobilization for social justice and social change builds upon long histories of anti-racist organizing and advocacy by our students and colleagues at Silberman.

The members of the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College stand in solidarity with people throughout the United States and around the world in mourning the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Atatiana Jefferson. This senseless loss of life at a time when the official COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. has reached 100,000 defies our understanding.

Social workers must speak out against injustice and at the same time be self-aware to ensure that residuals of systemic racism as well as other ‘isms‘ that live in all of us are identified and addressed.

We commit to ensure that our social work curriculum and practices as a school community prepares social workers to bring a critical analysis to a society that has produced race as a category for human identity, and to dismantle institutionalized policies and practices that have placed the lives of Black and other people of color in jeopardy.

We further commit ourselves to be ever mindful of this important teaching from Michelle Alexander:

“The rules and reasons the political system employs to enforce status relations of any kind, including racial hierarchy, evolve and change as they are challenged.”


Below are some key next steps as we forge ahead in strengthening a community here at Silberman that confronts pervasive, institutionalized structures and processes that dehumanize communities of color.




Readings and Resources List:

Faculty and staff are developing a catalog of books, essays, films, and other learning resources pertaining to the history, policies, and practices of racism. We welcome student input. Please send suggestions to Erin Bach at eb3246@hunter.cuny. edu. A reading list will soon be distributed to all students. We will foster immersive engagement with this literature through collaborative dialogue groups and a speaker series.


Dialogue Groups:

Dialogue groups consisting of faculty, staff, and students will be formed this summer, and continue through the fall and spring semesters, centered on identified themes that emerge through discussions and readings, etc.


Social Justice Committee:

Meeting throughout the summer, the Silberman Social Justice Committee is an open committee that brings together stakeholders from across our community – students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This summer, smaller working groups will be formed within the committee, to engage readings/resources and facilitate concrete commitments to institutional and community accountability for social change. All are invited and encouraged to take part. Please contact Professor Willie Tolliver, wtollive@hunter.cuny.edu, or Professor Colleen Henry,colleen.henry@hunter.cuny.edu, for further information.


Speaker Series:

Experts will be invited to facilitate conversations with Silberman students, faculty, and staff pertaining to racial justice and equity. We will provide more information shortly. In addition, Hunter College will be holding a series of public programs through Roosevelt House on the historical and political context of racism and efforts to advance racial equity. You will receive information about these programs from President Raab’s office.


Teaching and Learning


Integrating Just Practice and Anti-Racist Pedagogy Across the Curriculum:

In collaboration between faculty, students, staff, and field education partners, we are developing a cohesive plan to integrate an abiding commitment to just practice and racial equity across every area of our curriculum. We intend to ensure that all teaching at the Silberman SSW explicitly recognizes and sustains attention to anti-Black and anti-Brown racism, racial inequity, and the injustices that intersect racial inequities. This will include teaching the historical contexts of racist practices and policies so as to ensure a fuller understanding of systemic racism as it exists today.


Building Faculty and Field Educator Capacity:

Beginning immediately, and continuing throughout the academic year, collaborative steps are being taken to enhance faculty and field educators’ capacities to commit fully to the aforementioned teaching plan. These include the dialogue groups described above; ongoing collaborations with students; dedicated conversations among Method, Fields of Practice, Sequence, and other curricular area faculty and chairs; and special trainings and speaker series facilitated by experts in anti-racist pedagogy.


Building Upon the Silberman Field Education Cooperative:

In response to extraordinary student interest in the Silberman Field Education Cooperative and in strengthening our Field Education curriculum around a commitment to just practice, we are building new ways for students to directly shape Field Education. This summer, students who expressed interest in being part of the Cooperative will be invited to share their perspectives and ideas about Field Education pedagogy, along with action areas where they would like to be involved. A communication, with a form for gathering this information, is being sent out this week. Based on this input, the Field Education Cooperative will create working groups comprising students, alumni, and field advisors. Each group will provide topic-specific, concrete, actionable feedback to the main Field Education Cooperative body.


Additional Student Supports


Silberman Student Resources:

The Department of Student Services is available to students throughout the summer and the academic year, providing a range of supports, resources, and referrals. Please do not hesitate to contact Rob Lorey at rlorey@hunter.cuny.edu.


Hunter College Student Resources:

Student supports are also available through Hunter College, including the expanded Counseling and Wellness Services resources outlined in President Raab’s recent message. Please email personalcounseling@hunter.cuny.edu or call (212) 772-4931.


The above efforts are only a few cornerstones of an evolving path forward, as we redouble our dedication to just Social Work practice and education. We are committed to demonstrable actions as we forge ahead together as a community to live the mission of our profession as we respect the humanity of all individuals.


Best regards,

Mary M. Cavanaugh