School’s Commitments to Anti-Racism Now & Going Forward

In June of 2020, the CSSW Council of Deans came together and issued a joint statement condemning anti-Black racism in all its forms and committing not just to making statements, but to taking action. Our words at that time were prompted by countless horrific acts of violence and injustice against Black Americans, all against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic as it ravaged communities of color. We need to make good on our promise to enact change for the better at CSSW.

We must demonstrate the willingness to re-evaluate and re-imagine our policies and practices to make them anti-racist in every possible respect. We must reconsider every policy and practice and their effects on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and all people from marginalized groups.

Below is a “starter set” of commitments that the School leadership has developed and to which we hope the School community will endorse and expand. We welcome your feedback, changes, and new ideas. Please view this as a “living document” that will continue to evolve over time to respond to the circumstances of the moment and the needs of everyone in our community. We will add deliverables and timeframes to each item below as we finalize the list together.

CSSW COMMITS TO THE FOLLOWING GOALS AND STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE OUR CULTURE/ENVIRONMENT. Some are initiatives that have been completed or are ongoing, and others are works in progress, as indicated in the progress/timeline column.

Goal A: Ensuring that all in our community embrace and implement anti-racism efforts.

A.1. Providing ongoing anti-bias trainings for faculty, staff, and PhD students throughout the yearOngoing; multiple trainings are being offered each semester
A.2. Sustaining the very successful PROP course for MSW studentsOngoing; each year conveners are selected to support reviews and revisions to the course, as well as training and peer support for instructors
A.3. Launching and sustaining the very successful PROP course for PhD studentsOngoing; the Associate Dean for Doctoral Education solicits feedback from instructors and students to inform revisions to the course each year
A.4. Creating an anti-racism statement for students to sign during the application phase or enrollment phase at CSSWExpected to be completed in Fall 2021
A.5. Incorporating a DEI-related statement as part of the graduate student application processUnderway; will launch for application forms posted in Fall 2021
A.6. Incorporating a DEI-related statement:
  • as part of the faculty hiring process

  • as part of the administrative staff hiring process

Ongoing; launched in 2020-2021 faculty search process; expected to complete for staff by end of Fall 2021
A.7. Offering the Mini-institute on Addressing Anti-Black Racism Addressing Anti-Black Racism by CSSW faculty to faculty University-wide, the Provost, senior leaders in the Provost’s Office, all Columbia deans, and University TrusteesCompleted in Summer 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021
A.8. Distributing the PDSA glossary to all faculty, staff, and PhD students at the start of each semesterOngoing; will begin in Fall 2021
A.9. Developing more virtual DEI-related trainings so that adjunct faculty colleagues and staff are able to more easily engage in themOngoing; currently offering workshops on “Understanding Pronouns and Gender Identity” and “Anti-Black Racism & Navigating Difficult Dialogues in the Classroom”

Goal B: Supporting our community members so that all can thrive.

B.1. Addressing work conditions for our adjunct faculty colleagues by:
  • Establishing an adjunct faculty representative committee to meet with the school’s leadership several times per year

  • Increasing minimum pay for residential campus adjunct faculty by nearly 50% over two academic years (2020-2021 and 2021-2022)

  • Committing to annual increases in compensation for all residential and online adjunct faculty going forward

  • Employing new policies around payment for course development and late cancellation of courses

  • Inviting our adjunct faculty colleagues to all-school meetings and receptions for networking and peer support

Completed and Ongoing:

  • Committee created in Spring 2021

  • Pay increases instituted in 2020-2021 academic year

  • Ongoing

  • New policies developed in Fall 2020

  • Ongoing; invitations began in Fall 2019

B.2. Addressing work conditions for our administrative staff colleagues by:
  • Increasing opportunities for professional advancement

  • Providing funding for conferences and trainings (e.g., NASPA)

  • Encouraging senior staff to prioritize feedback and guidance around growth and development in evaluations and appraisals

  • Creating the work/life staff committee to focus on work in the remote environment

  • Creating a standing staff advisory committee

Ongoing/in process; building website with “best practices” for supervisors, to be completed in Fall 2021; work/life committee created in Fall 2020
B.3. Piloting a loan repayment program for alumsLaunched in Spring 2021
B.4. Increasing stipend support to doctoral studentsOngoing; began in 2020-2021
B.5. Initiating doctoral student research awards to support student research and trainingLaunched Summer 2021
B.6. Extending the tenure clock by up to two years for junior faculty on the tenure track to help address challenges due to COVIDInstituted in Summer 2020
B.7. Reducing teaching loads for pre-tenured faculty on the tenure track to help address challenges due to COVIDInstituted in Summer 2020
B.8. Offering myriad support spaces and affinity groups for students, staff, and facultyOngoing; includes weekly support spaces for instructors, biweekly support spaces for BIPOC community members, and almost monthly spaces for Black and API community members
B.9. Providing a start-up financial support package for anti-racism efforts like the Action LabOngoing
B.10. Launching and maintaining the Student Emergency Relief Fund during COVID and beyond Ongoing; launched in 2020-2021 (approximately $100,000 raised and disbursed to students)
B.11. Initiating an alum-student mentorship programOngoing; launched in 2020-2021
B.12. Organizing more community building opportunities Ongoing; virtual and in-person
B.13. Demonstrating appreciation for staff by implementing early dismissal for staff on summer Fridays and giving time off over the December holidays Ongoing; “summer Fridays” began in 2017 and the winter break began in 2018
B.14. Training faculty and staff on trauma-informed teaching, training, and engagementOngoing
B.15. Assessing physical space and making recommendations to support DEIAOngoing; continuing in Fall 2021 with return to campus
B.16. Continuing assessment of cross-university relationships and how we can lead in this spaceOngoing; several CSSW faculty and staff serve on and chair university-wide committees, including those addressing climate change, inclusive Public Safety and addressing diversity issues across the campus
B.17. Maintaining small gathering groups (optional) that allow for free exchange of ideas based on celebration (e.g., museum, art, theater experiences)Ongoing; expected to re-launch in Fall 2021, depending on COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines

Goal C: Highlighting the contributions of diverse community members.

C.1. Building a website dedicated to BIPOC alums who were important to our historyExpected to launch in spring 2022
C.2. Creating a new website on school leadership describing the COD members and their roles and responsibilitiesLaunched late Spring 2021: Council of Deans
C.3. Inviting guest speakers from diverse backgrounds to speak at high-profile eventsOngoing
C.4. Inaugurating the dean’s lecture series on race and racismOngoing; Spring 2021 Lecture Series
C.5. Generating “I Commit” statementsExpected to be posted online by December 2021

Goal D: Enhancing the diversity of our community.

D.1. Securing dedicated funds for a faculty “cluster hire” initiative to recruit a cohort of scholars of race and racism, aiming to hire 3-4 full-time faculty over the next two yearsSecured in 2020-2021; search ongoing; 2 new appointments so far:
Two Outstanding Scholars Join CSSW
D.2. Increasing total scholarship funds and average scholarship amounts to improve accessibility of a CSSW education and reduce debt upon graduationOngoing; from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021, total financial aid to MSW students increased by more than 20%; average scholarship increased from $15,000 to $17,000; 2021 graduates had lowest loan debt per borrower in the last 3 years, with reductions in debt greatest among Black and Latinx graduates
D.3. Matching CARES Act funding with institutional funding for those who were not eligibleCompleted in 2020-2021
D.4. Increasing the number of full scholarships every yearOngoing; school-wide total has increased from 4 just a few years ago (2014-2015) to 20 for the coming academic year (2021-2022); includes special scholarships for displaced students in partnership with Columbia Global Centers
D.5. Dedicating three full MSW scholarships to graduates of CUNY (one of our most important feeder schools for diverse applicants)Launched in Fall 2021; ongoing
D.6. Promoting faculty and staff of color into new and existing leadership positionsCouncil of Deans expanded; additional colleagues promoted across multiple offices at the School
D.7. Establishing a student co-chair for the DEI Advisory CommitteeInaugural role will launch in Fall 2021
D.8. Incorporating student feedback in the process of open searches for full-time facultyOngoing; PhD students invited to meet with faculty candidates starting in 2019-2020
D.9. Exploring new “pathway” programs for BIPOC MS-to-PhD studentsEarly research began in Summer 2021; more concrete work to be done
D.10. Examining the use of standardized testing in PhD admissions (e.g., GRE)The Doctoral Program suspended the GRE requirement for the 2020 and 2021 admission cycles. Doctoral Committee to consider permanent suspension of standardized testing in the coming academic year (2021-2022)
D.11. Creating and providing structural supports for API and underrepresented minority (URM) PhD student affinity groupsRegular meetings inaugurated in 2020-2021; the Doctoral Office provides funding and resources to support BIPOC PhD student-led and facilitated affinity groups and events, including those focused on Black, Latinx, Native/Indigenous and API identified students, inaugurated Fall 2021
D.12. Identifying ways to promote even greater engagement with the surrounding community in Morningside and HarlemOngoing; developing partnership with CU’s Center for Community Relations and Community Impact (in progress, beginning with new internships at agencies based in Harlem and Upper Manhattan in 2021-2022)
D.13. Increasing the representation of URM PhD students (particularly Black PhD students)Ongoing; developed a subcommittee focused on Black PhD student recruitment, enrollment, and retention in Fall 2021; recommendations and initiatives forthcoming

Goal E: Ensuring accountability and restorative justice.

E.1. Publicizing grievance and reporting procedures (including the role of EOAA and the Ombuds Office) for a whole range of concerns, including incidents of racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppressionHave posted a “Who to Contact” website for faculty and students.
Will expand content over Fall 2021 semester
E.2. Sharing and regularly updating information about the race/ethnic composition of our faculty, both full-time and part-timeOngoing; Faculty Diversity, Office of the Provost;
Adjunct Faculty Diversity, Columbia School of Social Work
E.3. Ensuring transparency around the ownership and use of syllabi and course materialsClearer messaging to instructors began in Spring 2021
E.4. Reviewing and revising our policies related to academic and behavioral concerns (i.e., Dean’s Discipline, Student Conduct, and the Ethics Board), while continuing the partnership between the Offices of Academic Affairs, Advising, and DEI for addressing conflicts as they ariseOngoing/In process