A Path Forward for CSSW

Melissa Begg
December 01, 2023

Dear CSSW Community,

For nearly two months, the world has been reeling from the events in Israel and Gaza. As I write this, we are learning of the end to the temporary ceasefire that allowed resources into the region to help the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It also signals a disruption to the reuniting of families. As we collectively mourn the deaths of far too many people and anxiously wait to see what will happen next in this tense moment, we must look to one another for support.

Over the last few weeks, I have been grateful for the opportunity to meet with student groups and learn about how so many in our community have been directly affected by these events. The commonality among all of these conversations has been the expressions of despair and frustration stemming from the abundant pain, fear, and sorrow so many of us are feeling as a result of the events in the Middle East, around the world, and here in New York. Each of us is asking – where and how does it end?

But as I was recently reminded, it is not the main role of social work to provide answers – rather, it is to partner with those around us to forge solutions, seek common ground, build coalitions, and co-create positive change while centering humanity in our responses, a primary tenet of social work. We also must continue to adapt our responses and resources as needs change. To that end, I commit to each of you that I will continue to be available to listen and learn about what our community needs as the situation globally and locally continues to evolve.

As an initial step, our DEI Office is establishing a host of new offerings to help all of us to process the events we are experiencing, to connect with one another, and most importantly, to generate ideas about how we can move forward together. Building from the conversations I and others in our CSSW leadership team have had with students, we will begin with the following opportunities over the next few weeks and leading into the Spring semester:

  • Two ongoing group support spaces for students: one for those with concerns/family/loved ones in Israel and one for those with concerns/family/loved ones in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • A facilitated dialogue about the conflict in the region and how social workers are responding (pending confirmation of a facilitator).
  • Guest speakers who can speak knowledgeably from their experience and expertise, and share their perspectives about key topics such as compassionate advocacy, intergenerational and historical trauma, grief in times of war, and approaches to bridging political and ethnic divides.

Throughout our School’s history, we have seen and addressed many difficult moments. These past weeks will surely be among the most challenging in our history, and there is no clear end in sight. As Dean, I have been consistently amazed by the compassion each of you shows to one another and your clients, and in speaking with so many of you recently, I know we all see each other’s humanity. As we move forward, it will be more important than ever to let empathy, the very core of social work, be our lodestar.

In community,