Partnering with Ohio State University's College of Social Work

Left image: Duck Bardus (on left), Frontline's Secretary, Board of Directors; LaVada Washington, Field Placement Coordinator for OSU's College of Social Work; Anna Stewart, CSW Interim Director of Field Education.

Left image: Duck Bardus (on left), Frontline's Secretary, Board of Directors; LaVada Washington, Field Placement Coordinator for OSU's College of Social Work; Anna Stewart, CSW Interim Director of Field Education.

We’re excited to announce a new partnership with the Ohio State University College of Social Work. Frontline and the college will work together to create a comprehensive support system for whistleblowers, social-justice advocates and nonviolent civil resistance movements in the U.S. and abroad.

Our goal is to fill in existing gaps in those services. Two excellent organizations, the Courage Foundation and ExposeFacts, do tremendous work providing legal support and publicity regarding whistleblowers, hacktivists and truth-tellers in general. By partnering with the CSW, our goal is to create a system that also addresses the health risks, the fear, anxiety, financial burden and social costs of such acts of conscience.

Let’s face it, truth-tellers are persecuted by governments, agencies, institutions and persons whose crimes and corruption are dragged into the spotlight. Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who released sections of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, immediately comes to mind.

As Foreign Policy noted in 2013, “Nixon’s private investigation squad, the ‘Plumbers,’ broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in search of juicy details of his private life," in an effort to slander and defame him. Some members of Congress reputedly branded him a traitor. Others advocated that he be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917 and imprisoned.

For exposing crimes.

Ellsberg laid bare the Nixon Administration’s private wars in Cambodia and Laos, the falsification of death tolls, falsification of projections about enemy troop strength (in order to mislead the American public about whether the war was 'winnable') and other damaging information. The ensuing Watergate scandal exonerated Ellsberg, and history has recast him (we believe) as the person he in fact was, and is—an honorable man, driven by conscience, whose actions likely accelerated the end of the war, saving both American and Vietnamese lives.

Truth-telling on such a grand scale does not come without a cost. Public and institutional persecution of whistleblowers, investigative journalists and other critics of corrupt institutions is, in part, intended to serve as a warning to those who would do likewise. The message is clear: Expose us, and you will pay dearly.

Our message, in creating an extensive, professional, compassionate support system, is precisely the opposite. That message is: We respect and value you. Your courage should be honored. You deserve our support and protection.

That support system isn’t limited solely to truth-tellers, although they’re an early, heavy emphasis for us, partly because of the severity of their needs. It extends to all social-justice advocates whose work demonstrates a strong commitment to public service. The OSU College of Social Work’s public mission is to “build stronger communities, celebrate difference, and promote social and economic justice,” which strongly mirrors Frontline’s outreach with social-justice workers as a whole.

We’re each committed to partnerships and work that creates happier, healthier, more just communities.

One of the things we like best about the CSW is that it’s very hands on. We know that theory and rhetoric are important, but we gravitate toward the nuts and bolts of how to get things done. A quick review of the CSW’s website illustrates a long list of faculty, staff and students who are, shoulders to the grindstone, fighting human trafficking, expanding services for returning veterans, combating racial injustice and a host of other problems. As well as doing such things as filling vans with bottled water and driving it to the city of Flint, Michigan, to help overcome the city’s ongoing need for clean, drinkable water.

It doesn’t get much more hands on than that. We respect people who talk about the need to do something, and then also do it.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t thank the college for establishing a Frontline office on the Ohio State campus, dedicating interns to work with us on service programs, and offering tuition wavers to Frontline staff and board members who want to pursue a degree, earn continuing education credits or other credit in social work. It’s an opportunity for Frontline’s staff to build skills and expand the number and kinds of services we can offer.

It’s a great opportunity to grow together.

Our affiliation with the College of Social Work is the first of what will be a multitude of health-related internship programs in service to social justice. We’re currently pursuing similar academic partnerships in public health, and will likely develop internships in medicine, nursing, mental health and allied health fields as we expand.

If you’re interested in volunteering, interning or partnering with us, as always we’re excited to talk about the possibilities. Just write to us here, and let’s get the conversation started.

— Duck Bardus and Joel Preston Smith