By Dean Scott Ryan
School of Social Work
This week, one of our professors who has an outstanding record of allyship with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and related communities, informed me of an unconscionable act of hate and vandalism at our School of Social Work.
This act, we believe, was clearly intended to intimidate the faculty member, and affect the professor’s advocacy for and academic research on LGBTQIA+ issues.
I am beyond saddened. I feel personally aggrieved.
The professor, whom I will not name for reasons of personal safety, entered their office at the UTA School of Social Work and discovered a person or persons had entered the locked office, dismantled a traditional, rainbow-colored gay pride flag which had hung for years on the outside of the office door.
The perpetrators wrote a message on the flag in black ink directing the professor to read the Biblical Book of Genesis, then placed the defaced flag in the desk drawer.
We have reported the incident to university police and other campus officials. We will fully cooperate with all university and law enforcement investigations.
We believe the incident is isolated; however, it is a historic intimidation tactic employed against a professor who conducts important research on and about social and academic issues affecting LGBTQIA+ persons.
We do not believe any students, faculty, or visitors are in danger within the school, the offices or any of our classrooms. Classes were not disrupted during the immediate law enforcement investigation on Tuesday. The police and university investigations into the matter are ongoing.
Meanwhile, we believe this incident underscores the daily lived experiences LGBTQIA+ people face in the aftermath of the recent exponential rise in anti-gay rhetoric and anti-trans legislation.
In 2022, a record 325 bills targeting LGBTQIA+ persons were introduced as of April in state legislatures across the nation, according to a Bloomberg analysis. That number is up from the 268 bills introduced in the entirety of 2021, according to the analysis.
Many of the bills prohibit trans students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.
Last October, the Texas Legislature passed a bill banning transgender girls and boys from competing on sports teams of their gender identity. The governor signed the law, and it became effective in January.
Similar anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation bans minors from accessing gender-affirming health care.
In all, more than 30 bills were introduced in the Texas Legislature in 2021 that Social Workers and LGBTQIA+ advocates ed harmful to ￼trans￼ and other gender non-conforming children and adults.
This legislative trend is dispiriting. It emboldens individuals to perpetuate hateful and discriminatory acts.
This we know: Social Workers must step up and speak out.
As a profession, Social Work values the dignity and worth of all people. It should go without saying, “all” includes LGBTQIA+ people and their allies.
Standard 1.01 of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics mandates the primary commitment of Social Workers is to support clients’ well-being.
UTA recently received a 5 out of 5 rating on the Campus Pride Index, a national listing of colleges and universities that are LGBTQIA+ friendly. This accomplishment is something we all should celebrate.
However, our work is not done. We cannot be passive bystanders.
“Even within a welcoming campus environment, Social Workers must remain attuned to the everyday lived experiences of those facing discrimination, microaggressions, and even violence that sometimes goes unreported – and hides in the shadows,” the professor whose flag was vandalized says.
“As Social Workers, we know that minority stress, discrimination, and prejudice deeply impact individuals’ health and mental health,” the professor says. “We need to be leaders in fostering an inclusive environment that actively promotes a sense of belonging for those who want to speak out and call attention to injustices on our campus.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, intimidation tactics, violence, and discrimination or just feel the need to speak with someone, please report it and reach out to campus and community resources.
See below resources for support and for ways you can get involved to advocate against hate and discrimination.
Scott D. Ryan
Dean and Professor
School of Social Work
The University of Texas at Arlington
Resources, Support, and Organizations:
• LGBTQIA+ Program at UTA
• Students can contact the UTA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office for an appointment at 817-272-2771 or call MAVS Talk 24 Hour Crisis Line at 817-272-TALK (8255). Telehealth options are available.
• UTA faculty, staff, employees, and their eligible family members can receive support through the UTA Human Resources Wellness and Assistance program which includes the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 1-800-343-3822.
• UTA Title IX Office
Reports of an incident(s) against a UTA student, visitor, staff or faculty member for gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, or domestic violence should be made to the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinators.
• UTA Office of Community Standards
Anyone can file an incident report regarding student misconduct.
• MAVS Talk Crisis Line: 817-272-8255 (TALK)
• Call 911 or UTA Campus Police at 817-272-3003
• LGBTQIA+ upcoming campus events at UTA
• Diversity Studies Minor and Certificate Program offered to UTA students by the UTA School of Social Work
Some Advocacy Organizations:
• National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter
• Texas Rising
• Texas Impact
• Voting is Social Work
• Social Work Votes