Faculty and Staff of Color Response to SSW SOCC's "Expectations for Portland State University School of Social Work"
May 17, 2017
Dear SSW Students of Color Caucus,
While the SSW has recently sent out formal responses to the Students of Color Caucus’s Expectations document and the SOCC presentation to the faculty and staff on Friday May 12th, we, as faculty and staff of color, also thought it important to send a separate response to the SOCC and all of our SSW students and partners.
To our students of color: first and foremost, we see you, and we hear you. We appreciate you, your experiences, your labor, and your courage. We value what you bring to this school, to the field of social work, and to our communities. We understand the painful reality that we are often asked to bleed out our trauma and make ourselves vulnerable in the face of oppression and institutional inequity in order to be heard and believed. The SOCC presence and storytelling at the all-school meeting was brave, powerful, and beautiful. We hope that it provided some healing and value to those of you who were there to share your truths, even though we know that the real healing will take time, accountability, trust-building, and evidence of institutional change. We also acknowledge and honor the countless stories that were not shared last Friday, stories from other current students of color and alumni of color who have navigated and resisted against interpersonal and institutional oppression while in the School of Social Work.
As faculty and staff of color (who also hold other intersecting and marginalized identities such as being queer, first generation college grads, immigrants, living with disabilities, etc.), we individually and collectively occupy complicated spaces in relationship to the matrix of domination, as well as our personal experiences/identities and our professional roles. We acknowledge that as faculty and staff we are often complicit and a part of the problematic system, and that we cannot do our work in the School from a place of innocence. In our jobs as faculty/staff, we are inevitably part of upholding oppressive systems at the same time that we are committed to changing and dismantling them. However, for many of us, we are in higher education because we have been in your shoes (when we were students) and believe in the importance of having faculty and staff from marginalized groups in higher education/social work education to help make the changes that are needed and to support students. Many of us are working hard to continuously address systemic oppression in the spaces we occupy, and the SOCC Expectations document calls on all of us to deepen that work. We recognize that as faculty and staff we need to hold one another accountable for this and we welcome ongoing feedback from our students, alumni, and community partners.
At the same time that we are part of the system of higher education, we also experience marginalization and oppression within it as people of color with multiple, intersecting identities. We frequently have a parallel process to you – despite having certain kinds of power within the system, we are also always navigating our roles in an institution that was not made by or for us. Many of the things you experience in terms of interpersonal and institutional oppression, we also experience, albeit in different ways, as faculty and staff in this environment. Consequently, we stand in solidarity with you.
As faculty and staff of color in the school, we are in a unique position – our lived experiences and cultural histories allow us to hear and understand you in a particular way while we are simultaneously implicated given the institutional positionalities of our jobs. Please know that we support you, we are taking the Expectations seriously, and we are working hard within our various roles and programs to promote equity, justice, liberation, and meaningful change within the SSW and beyond.
Please note that while this response includes SSW faculty (from across programs) as well as CCF and RRI, it does does not include a comprehensive list of adjuncts of color. This is in large part because we wanted to respond quickly and also chose to prioritize inclusion of those who were present at the Friday all-school meeting. As such, it does not fully represent all of the instructors of color who are part of the SSW. We know that this is an important omission and hope that adjuncts of color who were not able to sign on will voice their solidarity and commit to action in other ways/spaces as they are able.
In Solidarity/En Solidaridad,
SSW Faculty & Staff
William Ted Donlan
Lea Ann Holder
Thet Mar Win
Mónica A. García
CCF & RRI
Mauryn Q. Cisneros