Rutgers School of Social Work offers many opportunities for students and faculty to come together to advocate for important issues and marginalized populations. On this National Coming Out Day, social work students and faculty involved in Social Workers Advocating for GLBTQA and Gender-Nonconforming Equal Rights (SWAGGER) continue to ensure members of the LGBTQ+ community are provided the support and resources they need on campus.
SWAGGER is a student-run organization funded by Rutgers School of Social Work’s Graduate Student Association. SWAGGER was founded by a group of concerned students in 2010 after the death of Tyler Clementi, a gay Rutgers student who took his own life after being spied on by his roommate during a romantic encounter with another male.
“As a result of Tyler’s death, LGBT and other allied social work students at Rutgers came together and formed a group to advocate for the needs of LGBT students at Rutgers,” said Dr. Michael LaSala, founding faculty advisor of SWAGGER and Director of the Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) Program.
SWAGGER hosts monthly meetings for LGBTQ+ social work students and their allies to discuss topics such as job opportunities, and classroom and field placement experiences for LGBTQ+ social workers. SWAGGER has also hosted interdisciplinary panel discussions on a variety of topics including the history of the gay rights movement, bisexuality, transgender health, intersectionality for LGBTQ+ persons of color, and spirituality. SWAGGER has also developed a reference guide of resources for LGBTQ+ students.
According to LaSala, social workers must continue to fight for vulnerable populations such as the LGBTQ+ community, especially with recent news that a law challenging the right to discriminate against them is currently being heard in the Supreme Court. Social workers must do their part by investigating the physical, social, and psychological needs of the population.