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UNT’s Social Work department needs to be more inclusive

UNT’s Social Work department needs to be more inclusive

UNT’s Social Work department needs to be more inclusive
June 28
10:45 2020

While social workers represent and advocate for the most vulnerable populations, the UNT Social Work department has been looking past a vast group of people and students through their material and professor training. Now that it is pride month, it’s the perfect time to bring awareness to the UNT Social Work department’s lack of understanding by professors and curriculum given to the students on these people and their lives.

One brave student, Alex Wood, a queer trans senior at UNT, posted to the UNT Social Work Facebook page outlining the minimal, outdated class material and untrained staff regarding the issues of the LGBTQ community within the department and program. A few weeks later, Interim Social Work Director Cassidy Baker reached out to coordinate a Zoom call to address these concerns and better understand the student’s perspectives on these topics. While Wood was the original student who started this movement of change within the department, he did not want only his voice to be heard and knew other students had made similar statements in the past. He reached out to fellow students within the program from multiple years to compile their comments for this important meeting.

The grievances for the department were all first-hand experiences or statements made by various students and supported by others who witnessed these things but may not have personally experienced them. The list includes a lack of education on how to administer competent, well-informed care for these groups, professors lacking a basic understanding of LGBTQ terms such as the difference between transgender men and women and no mention whatsoever of non-binary people in progressive lessons mentioning other groups.

There’s also a general lack of overall understanding of the differences between sex, gender and sexual orientation with a professor stating that using ‘they’ pronouns for a single person makes them uncomfortable because it is not “grammatically correct,” but begrudgingly doing it anyway for the sake of the client. Many transgender students have been misgendered by professors after they were made aware of and corrected multiple times.  And in multiple classes, some assignments or discussions include the existence of LGBTQ individuals and their lives as topics of debate, which is outdated and can make students uncomfortable or feel as if their life is up for debate by other students and professors.

However, despite these comments and grievances collected by the social work students at UNT, many professors over the semesters have been conducive to listening to students’ complaints, often agreeing that the department could be improved. This made many students in the department feel understood and that the problem was not within the department but possibly just specific professors from a different background or upbringing. During a meeting between Baker and Wood, all of these experiences of his were discussed and those of other students to supplement a well-rounded understanding of the situation at hand. Many ideas were discussed to solve these problems and the main solution proposed was creating a student advisory board.

By creating a student advisory board within the social work program it will allow a group of student representatives to be a link between faculty and themselves to provide communication about the diversity of the social work curriculum. On top of that, adding the accountability aspect for professors and having a comfortable space to correct them respectfully and professionally to help staff members progress.

There will be a second meeting in which other social work students are open and encouraged to attend where specifics of the board will be discussed and more ideas will be introduced on how to better the program. By creating these meetings and boards it will make it easier to voice concerns directly to the director by a multitude of students to better the program for years to come.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Keaton Hare

Keaton Hare

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