Compassion for Our Community

October 31, 2023

Dear CSSW Alumni Community,

Some of the greatest strengths of the social work community are the values and ethics we uphold. And one of the most beautiful things about social workers, to my mind, is the way that social workers run towards those in pain, while others may run away. That’s because social work is centered on humanity and compassion. Furthermore, the NASW Code of Ethics points to appreciation of differences and about commitment to well-being across differences, and the importance of treating everyone in a “caring and respectful fashion.” These last few weeks have been incredibly challenging and deeply painful. The war between Israel and Hamas is leaving many of us feeling frustrated, frightened, and powerless. In this moment, each of us is being asked: are we prepared to address the pain within ourselves, among our colleagues and peers, across our country, and throughout the world? In my role as Dean of the Columbia School of Social Work, I feel strongly committed to ensuring that I am making space for everyone’s pain, regardless of where it comes from; it is one of my core responsibilities.

Over the past weeks and months, we at CSSW (and Columbia more broadly) have been working to ensure that we are increasing the ways in which we see, hear, and listen to the diverse voices in our community. First, we will not tolerate bigotry and acts of hate. If any such occurrences are witnessed, all are strongly encouraged to report them to the appropriate units. If a student is engaging in behavior that is potentially out of step with our University Code of Conduct, please see this site. If anyone is seen engaging in acts of bias, please refer to this site.

Below are just a few examples of the steps we are taking to support our students, staff, and faculty in their roles; and to reduce anxiety as much as we can in light of recent and ongoing events:

  • Students who want support have been encouraged to take advantage of the multiple resources available to them. This includes our wonderful team in the Office of Advising here at CSSW, University Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of Religious Life, the University Chaplain’s Office, Columbia Health, the International Students and Scholars Office, and the Office of University Life (links below).
  • Staff and faculty can take advantage of the periodic “support spaces” held for them, co-hosted by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Office of Academic Affairs. In addition, all employees can avail themselves of resources open to them through the Employee Assistance Program, the Office of Religious Life, the University Chaplain’s Office, and the International Students and Scholars Office (links below).
  • The University’s Center for Teaching and Learning has offered guidance to instructors on teaching during times of crisis, to help ensure that we can deliver on our promise to our students to provide a comprehensive and thorough social work education.
  • The Office of Student Affairs has taken the lead on designating private huddle rooms and quiet rooms for silent reflection, focused study, small group discussion, and collaborative projects. As mentioned in an email sent out to our community last week, “with the increase of traumatic events being broadcast publicly, having a peaceful and supportive environment is even more critical.”
  • In May of this year, in response to requests from faculty and students, we created a Working Group on Antisemitism. This working group is composed of a group of faculty, students, alums, and staff, who act as an advisory board on planning events and initiatives throughout the year that address antisemitism and Jewish identity. As part of this initiative, we hosted Rabbi Ron Fish from the ADL to give a lecture on antisemitism, co-sponsored a panel on Jewish identity, and are currently home to an art exhibit on Jewish identity and Jewish diversity featuring the beautiful photographs of Zion Ozeri.
  • With the support of our Office of Student Life, we are helping students to organize the first-ever Muslim Caucus, a student group (like our many other caucuses and clubs, which can be viewed here) that can offer supportive meeting spaces, social events, and lectures of interest to their members.
  • To learn and work effectively, one must feel safe. As per President Shafik’s recent message, public safety activities have been greatly amplified across all Columbia campuses. In addition, the University has added resources to the “escort programs” available to affiliates on the Morningside, Medical Center, and Manhattanville campuses.
  • The University has built a single, comprehensive webpage that describes campus-wide resources available to students, staff, and faculty – for classroom support, mental health and wellness, coping with grief and loss, public safety, and issues around faculty, staff, and student conduct.

As one of my exceptional faculty colleagues continually asks, how can we disagree and continue to remain in community? I want to close with the words taken from a moving poem by Warsan Shire (called “What they did yesterday afternoon”), shared with me by a very kind and caring CSSW alum:

i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

In community with you,

University Resources for Students

University Counseling and Psychological Services

  • Morningside / Manhattanville Campuses: (212) 854-2878
  • CUIMC Campus: (212) 305-3400
  • Students currently abroad may call International SOS and ask to speak to an Enhanced Emotional Support Counselor at (215) 942-8478.

University Health Services

Office of the University Chaplain:

Office of Religious Life:

International Students and Scholars Office:

University Life:

University Resources for Faculty and Staff

Columbia Employee Assistance Program:

Office of the University Chaplain:

Office of Religious Life:

International Students and Scholars Office: