As many of you know, there have been several incidents of racism, classism, and homophobia on this campus in the past few weeks. A group of students under the name ‘Respect Existence or Expect Resistance’ has come together to show their support for students targeted by attacks, and to call the Smith community and administration to action.
We are glad that there is a serious investigation under way, but the underlying problem is that there is a culture of racism, classism, and homophobia on this campus that cannot be tolerated, and must be fought.
This week, there will be several events that we hope to have your support at. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
At the Class Dean’s Website, you can find information on funds from the following offices: Ada Comstock Scholars, Religious and Spiritual Life, Class Deans’, Dean of the College, Institutional Diversity and Equity, International Students, International Study, Multicultural Affairs, President’s Office and Students’ Aid Society.
There is a variety of purposes for the above funds so make sure to click through and read the descriptions.
This link will take you to the Center for Work and Life’s page. They have compiled a list of funding from the following departments:American Studies, Art,Clark Science Center, Economics, French Studies, Government, Center for Women in Mathematics, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Sociology and Theater.
My name is Kate, and I am insane. I am also a Smithie – or, I used to be one.
This past fall, I engaged in actions that could have been interpreted as a suicide attempt. They were self-destructive actions, but I must deny any suicidal intent. However, Smith was obligated by their own policies to consider my fourteen hour hospital stay – the worst fourteen hours of my life, I may add, spent half naked in a hospital hallway where anyone who passed could see my catheter and the crusted vomit on my pillow and in my hair, because I was drunk and on suicide watch and they had no space in their locked ward where they wanted to put me but I would not sign myself over to – sufficient grounds to place me on a mandatory medical leave only a few weeks before the end of my first senior semester.
Smith did not see fit to tell me of this directly. After being discharged to a halfway house in northern Vermont, which promptly discharged me to the custody of my parents, I was sent an email from housing asking me when I planned to return to campus to collect my things so that I could be accompanied into my (now former) dorm. My parents and I drove down to Smith to meet with the Dean to plead for me to be allowed to finish the last several weeks of the semester. I was allowed temporary readmission on the condition that I not be physically present on campus. I finally received official notice of my withdrawal a week later. I finished my classes from home.
Smith’s decision to send me away has been the worst possible one for my mental health. At Smith, I had friends, I had autonomy, I had a therapist and I had an emergency line I could call when I started to creep towards dangerous thoughts. I was miserable, but it was all in my head. I had a support structure. I had good days where I could smile and laugh and have fun. Once I left Smith, it took me the better part of three months to find a new therapist – three months following a huge transition and constant feelings of worthlessness, thanks to Smith as an institution rejecting me – three months where I desperately needed someone to talk to and had no one. I spent – and still spend – my days alone.
If I was suicidal at Smith, it is a thousand times worse now. I have been ripped away from everything constant and supportive, because Smith is more afraid of being sued than they are of me being hospitalized.
Smith has told me that if I want to walk at my planned May 2013 graduation, I need to complete thirteen credits at another institution with a grade of C or above, reapply for admission, and have my therapist provide a glowing review of my progress to Health Services. If Smith were honestly concerned for my well-being, rather than their own interests, they would not recommend that I be taking classes anywhere at all, since I’m not allowed to take them at Smith. At this point, the chances of me graduating on time are tiny – my grades are terrible, because I am incapable of thinking linearly, and I have made no progress with my therapist whatsoever, because ninety percent of my issues orbit around being alone and having such a small chance of graduating with my class.
The point of all this is to say that Smith’s policies surrounding their mentally ill students are insensitive at best and harmful at worst. I wish I could spearhead a campaign to fix things but I can’t even complete my calculus homework, let alone organize anything. And honestly, I find it hard to care about improving an institution that I’ve grown to despise.
I don’t want to graduate from Smith anymore. I don’t want that name on my diploma. I don’t want to consider myself a Smithie when Smith so clearly does not want me to be a Smithie.
My name is Kate, and I am insane. And I am not a Smithie.
As the Student Government Association Diversity Committee, we are shocked at the Letter to the Editor featured in this week’s issue of The Sophian. At the same time, we are proud of the Smithies who are conversing about the diversity of issues mentioned in the article, namely class, race, sexuality, and intelligence.
We would like to invite you to submit your messages to us at email@example.com. We will compile the letters and send them to alum groups. Please include in the letter:
1) Who you are (does not have to include your name if you would prefer to stay anonymous)
2) Why you chose Smith
3) What you are getting out of your Smith experience (The Smith of today)
4) How you feel about the Sophian letter
If you would like to receive a response from an alum group, you can include your Smith Box number with your submission.
Thanks for your passion; we look forward to continuing this discussion with you.
Sexuality and Gender Speech to the Smith College Board of Trustees
Mac Hamilton and Nahee Kwak’s Remarks to the Smith College Board of Trustees Campus Life Committee, 2 March 2012
There has been quite the ruckus on the Smith campus surrounding Anne Spurzem’s inflammatory Letter to the Editor that was published last week. Discussions about class, race, sexuality, and privilege have spread across campus like wildfire. While some students have discussed their experience in the Smith Bubble–in some minds a post-classism, post-racism, post-gendered world, others have shared their experiences with classism, racism, and heterosexism at Smith. One student told the SGA Senate on Tuesday that another student had told her, “This is what it’s like in America,” assuming that because she had Asian heritage that she was not an American citizen. A student at our Monday night conversation on sexuality and gender shared the response of self-identified lesbians in her house when she revealed that she was bisexual: “Wow, I would never date a bisexual person.” A transgender student also shared his truth. “It’s embarrassing when a professor calls my given name in class when I now go by a different name.” All of these cases exemplify under-served populations at Smith; populations that are an invaluable asset to our classrooms, houses, and community.
The Student Government Association is addressing these diversity issues on campus in a variety of ways. Since the beginning of the semester, the Diversity Committee has been planning a series of three campus-wide discussions with students, faculty, and administration to focus on sexuality and gender, class, and race at Smith and the direction in which we would like to see Smith move. The SGA Senate has also expressed their intention to increase dialogue about how to make Smith more equitable to students of all classes and races. The SGA Cabinet is undertaking a campaign to express to alum groups what Smith means to students, which can be used to increase mutual understanding of the Smith of today and also help Smith in recruiting students who believe in our mission of educating and empowering students to develop leaders for society’s challenges.
While we as student leaders have taken the initiative to spark discussions on these critical topics, there is only so much we can do without the help of the Board and Smith administration.
The topic of diversity is vast in its complexities, and we are proposing a few developments that we believe will vastly improve aforementioned issues.
It is a common misconception that because our campus is so diverse that we are well educated on the topics of gender and sexuality. But some people do not understand these issues and have a hard time knowing where to begin and where to go to learn more. We are proposing that Smith provide training and resources to Smith faculty, staff, and students on these subjects.
As students from all Five Colleges attend Smith classes, it is vital that Smith professors interact with all students in a helpful and respectful way. Part of this includes respecting students’ preferred names and pronouns. Training for faculty and staff members on gender diversity would not only serve students, but would also help professors learn how to interact respectfully with students of all gender identities and presentations.
Our next request is a better-sourced Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender. Students have been positively affected by the new resource centers for global studies, the environment, community collaboration, and work and life. We think that properly resourcing Smith’s oldest centers, the Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender and the Women’s Resource Center, would also affect students favorably. One challenge to the centers as they stand today is that they do not have a staff. When we looked at how peer institutions support their queer populations, we found that Wellesley and Amherst both have full time staff members to support LGBTQ students. We applaud them for these efforts, and would like to see Smith take the same step to support these populations. The RCSG and Women’s Center, merged together, would be an invaluable resource to students questioning sexuality, questioning gender, and coming out, as well as provide a space for students interested in learning more about this aspect of the Smith community. Merging the two centers would increase the effectiveness of each, creating an environment where all view points are welcome and no questions are “too obvious to ask.” The center would be a resource to all students, providing a place to continue much needed discussions of diversity on campus and further educate our community.
Smith is a place where students make discoveries about themselves and the world around them. This is part of what makes us so strong. Students are exposed to points of views that they may never have known even existed. A full stack of literature and a guiding, reassuring full-time staff will help the difficult process of working through sexual and gender identity. Having a member of the staff to help them through this process is vital to supporting Smith students. The center will not only help students questioning their sexuality or gender, but will also help allies on campus who are interested in learning and engaging with these campus issues.
You Do Not Have To Agree With Me, But This Is What I Think
Ok, everybody. Calm down about this Anne Spurzem letter. It’s not worth getting this angry. That’s what people who write incendiary shit like this WANT. So you’re just rewarding her.
And while we’re on the subject of the letter…
She lists four different kinds of people who go to Smith. The first one is lesbians, of any race or class. The second one is international students (she gets the part about financial aid wrong, but that’s just part of the incendiary ignorance of the letter, and not part of my point). She lists low-income people of color. And finally, she lists white hererosexual girls who can’t get into Ivies.
There are a few problems with this list. The first is that she groups people of color and low-income people into the same category. That’s not about Smith; that’s just racial bias on her part and evidence that Spurzem does not believe that non-poor people of color (or poor white people!) are a legitimate category and deserve to be treated as such. She continues on to denounce Smith’s policy of not looking at SAT scores, and then provides a very good reason not to: “Low-income black and Hispanic students generally have lower SATs than whites or Asians of any income bracket. This is an acknowledged fact because they don’t have access to expensive prep classes or private tutors.” SO SATS ARE RACIALLY BIASED AND SMITH DOESN’T LOOK AT THEM? That does not reflect badly on Smith. Her advocacy of continued reliance on a prejudiced set of numbers reflects badly on HER, not on Smith.
The second is that she lists white straight girls who couldn’t get into Ivies, but not non-white or non-straight girls. This implies that for girls that don’t fall in the straight or white categories, Ivy League education is not even attempted. This also implies that the students at Smith are not Ivy-level… when, frankly, some of us GOT INTO IVIES, and turned them down to go to Smith, while others of us ARE CAPABLE OF PERFORMING WELL AT IVIES (see successful completions of 12-college exchange programs) and instead got into Smith because it is LESS SELECTIVE. Smith chooses to accept roughly 50% of all applicants knowing that SMITH ATTENDANCE IS A SELF-SELECTING PROCESS. If the majority of rich straight white girls apply to Smith as a safety because they’re not interested in going to a women’s college, THAT IS NOT A LOSS FOR SMITH, A WOMEN’S COLLEGE. This is not about Smith, this is a problem with the attitudes of the very rich white girls who choose not to attend. Again, if this is what Spurzem wants for her alma mater - a bunch of rich kids attending who don’t want to attend - then it reflects badly on HER, not on Smith.
The third is that she ignores sexualities besides straight and gay, which is very close-minded. This reflects badly on HER, not on Smith.
Now, these things piss me off because they are bigoted, but they are about the woman writing in, and not about her critique of Smith. Again, Smith, this woman’s letter so far has not actually been a poor reflection on YOU. It has reflected poorly on HER.
(For the sake of the rest of this post, I’m going to assume that she says “Straight” when she means “digs men in some capacity” and “Lesbian” when she means “digs women in some capacity.”
Her critique of Smith is that these are the only four types of girls who go here.
Now, let’s examine this more closely: She mentions that Smith accepts white straight girls, lesbians of all races, and people of color. WHAT OTHER KINDS OF PEOPLE ARE THERE??? How is this a critique? How could we find a girl who is neither white nor not white, neither straight nor not straight?
Let’s get this clear: Spurzem is writing to Smith the criticize us because we are diverse, something she calls “noble” in her own letter. So diversity isn’t her issue. It’s really all about the money. She is only upset because “the days of white, wealthy, upper-class students from prep schools in cashmere coats and pearls who marry Amherst men are over. This is unfortunate because it is this demographic that puts their name on buildings, donates great art and subsidizes scholarships."
Now, tell me this- why do we need scholarships? According to her, it’s because we recruit minorities! So her problem is, "too bad you recruited too many minorities, now you don’t have enough white people to get more minorities.Too bad you’re so diverse you can’t afford to be diverse! Too bad you don’t have lots of white girls donating money to rename buildings anymore since you’re now such a DIVERSE SCHOOL!”
THAT’S NOT EVEN LOGICAL!! SHE DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!!
Smithies, when you all call yourselves “personally victimized” by this post, or decry an alum’s heartless dismissal of Smith’s diversity policy, think about what it is you’re rejecting. The only way this letter is actually offensive to Smithies is that it’s sad that she calls herself a Smith Alum, because she clearly did not learn how to formulate an argument in college, nor did she shed the racism, heteronoramtivism or classism she exhibits in this post. BUT IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SMITH COLLEGE AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH HER PREJUDICE AGAINST MINORITY GROUPS (CLASS, RACE, SEXUALITY, ETC).
So why continue to be offended? She didn’t actually say anything bad about us, just exposed her prejudices. I read this article, laughed at how dumb she was, and moved on. All of the up-in-arms responses to this letter are just validating a deranged line of argument. Don’t you all have better things to post on Tumblr?