Some years ago when I was in the process of applying for my first professorial post I read an article in the Times Higher Education focussed on the role of professors in HEIs in the UK. In the course of this article the question was posed: what is the collective term for a group of professors? The answer: an absence.
This memory came back to me in the context of launching the Association of Professors of Social Work website, on which this blog is posted. After a period of digital absence our newly launched website gives us once again a visible profile and presence for the wider world to see. That said, the recent digital absence of APSW does not conflate with APSW inactivity. Indeed a lively online discussion about the recently announced ‘once in a lifetime’ independent review into children’s social care provides ample evidence of APSW being a vibrant, and far from dormant, community.
It is this collective energy and expertise across all the diverse domains of social work that we can now demonstrate more publicly through our website. This new platform provides us with a renewed impetus and opportunity to share our endeavours and ideas more widely across the APSW community and beyond it. It enables us to fulfil the remit of the APSW constitution which states that the role and purpose of APSW is to:
- advise institutions engaged in social work education and research
- represent the interests and development of social work to Governments, the media and relevant national, UK and international bodies
- initiate and continue development of social work research.
- enhance the impact of social work research through the collection and dissemination of relevant information.
Mindful of the turbulent times we live in and the prevalence of post-truth discourses, oppressive forces and challenges to democratic processes, as co-chair of APSW I see it as our responsibility to work as a group to participate respectfully, empathically, and at every opportunity collaboratively, with other like-minded individuals and groups, to promote social work research, education and practice in the interests of those people whom social worker seek to empower and support. Of particular concern is our commitment to ensuring we act in ways that reflect the diversity of our world, our discipline and our profession.
In her book Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone, Minna Salami respectfully invites us all to engage inclusively and joyfully in reconfiguring our established mindsets. For Salami this involves a commitment to breaking down entrenched patterns of Euro-patriarchal thinking, and especially binary perspectives which privilege rational and intellectual understanding over understanding coming from our emotions and our heart. This is our intention and commitment too.
As professors of social work we have a responsibility to be both present and visible. Rising to this challenge requires us then to re-work, I would suggest, the collective term for a group of professors (or at least professors of social work) from ‘an absence’ to ‘a presence’ of professors. Only we can make that happen.
 Salami, M. (2020) Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone, London: ZED.