March 21, 2011
Political Science Professor Rose Ernst found the Washington
Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) severely lacking in its ability to “enact
its own core values.” In “Are You Being Served: A DSHS Report Card 2009-10,” she and fellow researchers Linda Nguyen and
Kamilah Taylor (former students, class of 2009) examined customer service,
confidentiality, and accessibility at DSHS offices throughout the state. More
than 2 million people receive services from DSHS annually.
Researchers looked at a wide variety of factors including how
accessible the sites are for people without cars and for those using
wheelchairs; whether offices were designed for confidentiality; and options for
those individuals who are unable to use computers, have limited access to the
Internet, or would benefit from materials in languages other than English. They
looked at ease of access and ability to speak with a staff member by phone and interpersonal
“The findings showed clearly that the White Anglo American
researcher received the most information about all programs,” Ernst said. “The African
American investigator received much less information about basic food, medical,
and cash assistance only 28% of the time.”
The complete report, which is available online, concludes
with recommendations for improvement, many which are free or inexpensive.
Ernst, who has been on the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2007, focuses her research on social movements and change,
public policy, critical race theory, and the politics of race, gender, class,
and sexuality. In 2010, NYU Press published
her book “The Price of Progressive Politics: The Welfare Rights Movement in an Era of Colorblind Racism.”
The College of Arts and Science offers 33 undergraduate majors, 37 undergraduate minors, and 7 advanced degrees, including a Master of Public Administration.
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