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On the Eve of Election 2020

A gold "I voted" sticker on a black and white jacket with a red and white U scarf

On the evening before election day 2020, Dean Martell Teasley shared the following message with the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Utah College of Social Work. 

Dear Social Work Student Body,

We are on the eve on what many argue is one of the most important national elections in the history of the country. If you have not done so already, please remember to exercise your right to vote. I hope you have had a chance to examine the issues, as well as form an opinion of which candidates best serve our national, state, and local needs. Congratulations to those students, staff and faculty members within the College of Social Work who have put their time, energy, and money toward the 2020 election. Volunteers help make a difference in small and big ways. Our democracy works best when we participate. 

Ironically, election 2020 marks four years since my interview for the deanship at the University of Utah. I arrived on the day of the election in November 2016, and interviewed the morning after. You can imagine the challenge that involved.

We know that many of you will be watching election results. Although everyone wants clear and unambiguous election outcomes, it is possible that total results from the election may be extended. Given our current political climate, it is safe to say that based on the outcome, there will be disappointment, strife, as well as celebration and happiness. Understanding that there are those who feel strongly about the outcomes of the 2020 election and its impact on the future directions of the country, it is important that we find healthy ways to express our anxiety and trepidation, or our joy and excitement. Undoubtedly, our country will need healing after the election and we must all play our role in that process. Social workers have often been part of the national healing process and we will more than likely find ourselves in that role again. However, it is important that social work professionals and students engage in self-care and personal care for loved ones and family. Please take care of yourselves.

The winner of a fair and impartial election means that the people of our country have spoken, and as citizens committed to our democracy, we must have peaceful respect for election outcomes.  The beauty of an election is that it starts another period of advocacy; and therefore, true patriots of our democracy are forever vigilant and prepared to honor our responsibilities as citizen to develop a more perfect union.

As aspiring and continuing social work professionals, this period will have an indelible mark on the present and future of social work practice, as well as the clients we serve. It is important to remember that our social work code of ethics serve as a guidepost, and reminds us of our commitment to ethical behavior and practice. Indeed, our unique set of professional values are consistently challenged by many of today’s political issues, resulting and calling many social workers to a move to political advocacy. I invite you to identify, and possibly join, advocacy groups that support causes important to you. The present and future of social work practice depends on our continued care and advocacy for that which we value as a humanitarian profession.

I am sure that your course instructors will assist you in processing your feelings about election outcomes. Should such a conversation arise during class time, discussions with those who are aware of the issues can assist with ways of coping in the development of adaptive and transformative thinking. The social work education classroom is a great outlet for expressing your feelings about election outcomes, as it serves as a source of building personal strength, resolve, and direction.  Given that the University of Utah is a public institution of higher education, it is non-partisan; meaning, employees are prohibited from political lobbying and forms of partisanship. Employees can articulate facts as they understand them. Yet, students are allowed to express their views in a respectful manner, consistent with the Student Handbook and the Social Work Code of Ethics. Thus, course instructors are harbingers of the facts, and explainers of what facts about a given situation mean to the profession (and specific course content). In addition, course instructors are facilitators of student classroom discussions in the promotion of social work knowledge, skill and value development, and derived forms of advocacy.

The country is still in the midst of a global pandemic, and we are witnessing high levels of positive COVID-19 cases in the state of Utah. We must all attempt to remain as precautious and safe as possible.  We understand this is a turbulent time for many of you, to include your love ones, and that there are levels of uncertainty. What we can control is our attempt to remain safe and to foster healthy habits in coping with anxiety. Please continue to stay aware of situations on the ground and to look for University updates. Do not be afraid to engage in outreach to your personal or University services.

Finally, as this 2020 election unfolds, I wish you, your families, and loved ones a sense of peace, both on the outside and on the inside. Peace on the outside in our demonstration and promotion of civility and vigilance to stay the course in the promotion of our best values, furthering humanity in the expression of our democracy. Peace on the inside in examining ways to reduce our anxiety and sense of uncertainty, discovering and igniting that spark within each us to face tomorrow with resolve, because we are preparing ourselves today.

Thank you,

Martell Teasley, PhD, MSW
Dean and Professor
President of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work

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Last Updated: 12/12/23