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An Open Letter from Dean Cathryn Potter and the Faculty of the Rutgers School of Social Work
June 14, 2016

School of Social Work Dean urges students, faculty, staff, alumni and the wider Rutgers’ community to support victims and their families in the wake of senseless hate crime and to demand social justice in our nation and the world.

The members of Rutgers University School of Social Work offer our sincere condolences to the families, friends, and members of the Orlando community who lost loved ones during Sunday’s shooting. This is but one in a series of acts of hate and terror to have plagued our nation in recent years. It is difficult to comprehend violent acts like this or to fully understand the grief of those who are suffering. What we can do is unite as a community against further divisiveness and stand together against acts of hate and for a vision of a just and whole society.

As President Obama noted in his response on Sunday, an attack on any person — regardless of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender identity, or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us.

The victims, their families, and the LGBTQI community affected by the horrific event in Orlando will remain in the thoughts of our nation and our profession. As social workers, we reject and condemn hatred and violence in word and in deed. We also wish to preserve the greatest asset of our nation: the diversity and inclusion of all people. We believe that public safety can co-exist with diversity and we all must respect in peace our many human differences.

Individually, we may feel powerless, but as a group whose core mission is to fight for social justice, we are strong. In our daily lives as social workers, teachers, activists, parents, and citizens, we can work together to lead communities to choose justice and care for all. We can offer particular solace to members of our LGBTQI communities who feel vulnerable, saddened, and angry at this time. We can be mindful of individuals who are struggling with alienation, rage, or confusion and serve as guides toward a different path. Finally, we can take a strong and unwavering stance against gun violence and work to create communities not guided by hate or fear, but united to create a safer, more tolerant society. 

As we learn more about this senseless act, we may find that we know others who have been directly impacted by this tragedy. They may feel immobilized, fearful, and deeply affected in many ways. Please help them to find the resources they need for counseling and support.

As members of the Rutgers community, we need to remain open to and engaged in conversations around this topic and related topics, so that we can lean on one another. Let’s also not forget the resources we have to access support. Students can contact CAPS (Counseling, ADAP, and Psychological Services) at 848-932-7884 or visit the center at 17 Senior Street in New Brunswick. In addition, the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities (17 Bartlett Street, New Brunswick) and the Center for Latino Arts and Culture (122 College Avenue, New Brunswick) have staff available to discuss the tragedy and issues of social justice more broadly. Finally, a vigil for the victims and survivors will be held this evening, June 14 at 8 p.m. at the Pride Center of New Jersey at the Reformed Church of Highland Park (19 South 2nd Street).

Please feel free to send us additional resources as you find them and we will add them here.

Additional resources and information:

Rutgers Counseling Services for Camden campus:

Rutgers Counseling Services for New Brunswick campus:

Rutgers Counseling Services for Newark campus:

Upcoming vigils in the New Jersey area:

Talking to your children about tragedy:

Toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support center: Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text "TalkWithUs" to 66746

Incidents of Mass Violence (SAMHSA):

Garden State Equality 7th Annual Equality Walk in Asbury Park on June 18: 


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