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Take Action Towards Silberman Becoming a More Anti-Racist Social Work Institution

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Dear student/faculty/staff/ally of Silberman School of Social Work:

We chose to become social workers out of a love for humanity, commitment to justice, and a desire to use our energy to foster wellness and equity in individuals and communities. Many of us chose to study at the Silberman School of Social Work because the school’s commitment to anti-oppressive practice aligns deeply with our values. However, as we learn in our coursework, institutions sometimes reproduce the very systems of oppression we seek to change. We recognize and name that we are not in full integrity with our commitment to anti-oppressive practice, especially when it comes to addressing racism in our institution.

In the last year, our administration has taken many important steps to fulfill this commitment. But we still have a long way to go. We must have the humility to face ourselves honestly, and the courage to bring our actions and policies into true alignment with our values. It’s time for us to come together as a united voice and powerfully declare that we can do better!

By signing your name to this petition, you can be a part of bringing concrete and lasting changes to the Silberman School of Social Work. Rather than presenting a list of problems, students across all methods and programs have collaborated to research and present a slate of actionable solutions the school can take right now. We are committed to work with the administration to make these solutions reality.

Your support is crucial to the power of this effort. We urge you to sign your name to show your commitment to make change happen in the school. Join us at a Town Hall at Silberman on February 24th at 7pm, to share your stories, ideas and commitments to holding our institution accountable to anti-racist practice and principles. If you are unable to attend the Town Hall but want your thoughts heard, share them here.

Below is a summary of these asks. View FULL DOCUMENT HERE.

Our Asks of Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College

In this watershed moment in the history of student movements in the United States, we the students, alumni and faculty of Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College stand with students across the country to denounce systemic racism in our institutions of higher education. Out of love and commitment to our profession, to this school, and to our mandates in the social work code of ethics, these are our asks of our academic institution and our commitments to hold ourselves to anti-racist social work practice.

Hiring of faculty and administration: We ask that Silberman create a hiring action plan with the student body to ensure that by 2020 at least half of the tenure-track faculty and administration are people of color. We ask that students be invited to join existing hiring and search committees. We ask for finalists to address race and racism in the U.S. in their colloquium.

Committees: We ask that student voices be the center of the Social Justice, Curriculum, and Faculty committees, specifically students of color, queer, transgender, intersex, low-income, and students with special needs. We ask for the transparency of every committee to maintain accountability.

Practice Lab: We ask that the Practice Lab curriculum be co-designed by a task force consisting of second-year students, faculty, and external individuals trained in anti-racist dialogue; this task force should be comprised of at least 50% the voices of people of color, queer, transgender, intersex, low-income, and persons with special needs.

Curriculum: We ask that students from each method be involved in the curriculum development process. We ask for a fully funded, comprehensive review of the curriculum at Silberman to collect data on demographics of authors and the publishing year/academic field of all assigned readings. We ask that end of semester faculty evaluations be made clearly available for students.

Budget: We ask for increased transparency of the Budget. We ask for a portion of endowment to be set aside for anti-racist student organizing and community building, Common Time funds, curriculum review, faculty training, and tenure-track hiring lines for hiring of faculty who work on critical issues related to social justice.

Faculty Training: We ask that all Silberman faculty members be trained by a third party consultant on the history of race and racism in the U.S. and in the social work field and facilitating conversations around race and racism.

Common Time: We ask that three days be set aside each semester for Common Time. We ask that specific accommodations are made for OYR students in order to participate in the planning process and attend. We ask that students and faculty who are not part of a chartered group to be able to actively participate in planning. We ask that childcare be provided on these days.

Physical Space: We ask that a new enclosed space, with a minimum capacity of 30 people, be designed and equipped for student use, separate from the room reservation process. We ask for a separate room equipped for student meditation, self-care, spiritual and faith practice.

OYR students: We ask for a quantification of the race and class-based representation disparities between the full-time two year, advanced standing, accelerated, and OYR students. We ask for 2 advisors to advocate for the needs of OYR students. We ask for the library, field placement office, and writing center to have extended hours for OYR student needs.

Field Education and Placement: We ask for protocol around supporting students who are facing racism, transphobia, homophobia, and other oppression at their placements. We ask for a stipend for travel.

Mental Health Counseling and Student Wellness: We ask for 2 full time on-site mental health counselors, including at least one counselor of color. We ask that counselors be trained in anti-oppressive and culturally competent social work practice and that these services be free of charge or on an income-based sliding scale.

Regular Open Dialogue: We ask for an open monthly student forum where the Deans and the heads of the committees and task forces that deal with issues of race and racism are in attendance.

Response: We ask that Dean Cavanaugh and the heads of the committees and task forces responsible for the outlined internal policies create a timeline of actionable steps in response to these asks in partnership with the student body by March 30th, 2016.


List of FAQ's

Q: Who wrote these asks?

A: This document is a collective effort, and the contributors and editors include students of all years, methods and tracks, faculty, staff and alumni allies. It is compiled by student organizers who are part of the Student Power Coalition. These asks draw from a long history student organizing at Silberman, and have been in motion since the Spring of 2015.

Q: I agree with some of the asks, but there are some I’m not sure about. What should I do?

A: This document is a collection of specific solutions that students have proposed for this moment, but it is a living document that is ever changing based on your feedback. We urge you to put your name behind this effort to show our institution that we see that change needs to happen. We invite you to join us at a Town Hall at Silberman on February 24th at 8pm to share your ideas on how to hold our institution accountable to anti-racist practice and principles.

Q: Have the decision makers seen this document?

Yes, the student organizers have been intentional about forming relationships with decision makers to share the work that we are doing, and seek their support and feedback. This document has been shared with all of the decision makers listed, and each of them have been invited into conversation with the student body.

Q: Can I sign anonymously?

A: No. We are asking for your name in order to most powerfully capture the breadth of the Silberman students, faculty, alumni and allies who are in support of this living document. By signing publicly, you also make a commitment to holding Silberman accountable to responding to these asks.

Q: This is great! How can support the organizing besides signing?

A: Thank you! Here are some ways that you can support the organizing:

  • Share this petition with your networks! Post it on social media and talk about it in your classes.
  • Come to the Town Hall at Silberman on February 24th at 7pm, and invite your friends.
    • If you are not affiliated with CUNY and are coming to the Town Hall, please fill out this form so we can get your name on the security list to enter the building!
    • If you are unable to make the Town Hall, or want to share a story or thought anonymously, you can share here.
  • If you are a current student and are interested in becoming involved with the Student Power Coalition, fill out this form at and we’ll be in touch!

Other questions? Send us an email at and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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