In Support of Columbia’s Statement on Mass Shootings in El Paso and Dayton

August 6, 2019 @ 4:37 pm
By Interim Dean Irv Garfinkel

Following the weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Executive Vice President of University Life Suzanne Goldberg sent a message to the entire University community expressing concerns about the distress some students and other members of the community might be feeling in response to the news. I would like to echo her concerns. According to the records kept by the Gun Violence Archive, the total number of mass shootings so far in 2019 has outpaced the number of days this year. This sad reality is taking its toll on the nation’s psyche.

What is more, the El Paso shooting—like last week’s shooting in Gilroy, California—adds to the woefully long list of violent acts that appear to be connected to white supremacist ideology. While the United States has hardly been a stranger to white-supremacist terrorism throughout its history, the frequency and intensity of such acts is becoming alarmingly commonplace. Their scale and magnitude challenge the most grievous historical bounds: Saturday’s massacre was the most deadly mass attack to target Latinx people in U.S. history. The intention of the El Paso attack was nothing more than to intimidate a group of people who have inhabited Texas since long before that land was part of the United States.

I want to be clear that the School of Social Work stands firmly against all forms of bigotry and intolerance. Our School and our profession are founded on the principles of social justice and respect for human diversity. Social workers are frequently on the front lines of care for traumatized populations, including, of course, immigrants, people of color, and victims of gun violence. In the face of such brutality, we must redouble our efforts to create a community of care for those who are targets of the ideology of hatred. These events are powerful reminders of the important role we can play in helping to address the epidemics of gun violence, anti-immigration sentiment, and racial prejudice in America.

I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that the field of social work, while immensely rewarding, can also be emotionally taxing. If you are having trouble coping with your feelings about these distressing events, I urge you to call on the University’s various supportive services. Our efficacy as advocates and allies is heavily impacted by our own well-being.

At the School of Social Work, do not hesitate to contact Associate Dean Michael Lovaglio (, Assistant Dean Karma Lowe (, or Assistant Dean Moira Curtain ( for support.

Additionally, please do not hesitate to call on the following University resources, should the need arise:

Img src: Christchurch Weeps…, by Bernard Spragg, taken on March 23, 2019, via Flickr (CC 1.0).

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