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Responding to the July 31, 2018, Campus Police Call

President Kathleen McCartney and other Smith College officials have issued statements regarding an incident on July 31 in which a college employee reported a student of color to Campus Police, saying she seemed to be “out of place” in a residential area. The statements are collected below.

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Updates on the Investigation

Friday, August 3, 2018

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty:

I would like to take this opportunity to alert you to three developments resulting from initial fact-finding about the July 31 call to Campus Police.

  • We are releasing the redacted transcript of the July 31 call. It is now available below.
  • The employee who placed the call to Campus Police has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the external investigation.
  • The college has retained the Sanghavi Law Office to conduct a thorough, external investigation. The firm has extensive experience conducting civil rights investigations,  including investigative experience at the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

We are committed to timely and transparent communication throughout this investigation, and will send further updates to the community as soon as they are available.

Sincerely,

Amy Hunter
Interim Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity; Institutional Equity Officer and Title IX Coordinator


Campus Police Transcript

July 31, 2018, 1:53 p.m.

Dispatch: Campus Police, recorded line.

Reporting Caller: I was just walking through here in the front foyer of [REDACTED] and we have a person sitting there laying down in the living room area over here. I didn’t approach her or anything but um he seems to be out of place … umm … I don’t see anybody in the building at this point and uh I don’t know what he’s doing in there just laying on the couch.

Dispatch: Can I have your last name please?

Reporting Caller: [REDACTED]

Dispatch: I’ll send someone over and check it out.

Reporting Caller: Alright. I’ll wait over here.

Unit Clears

Responding Officer: All clear. That was a student relaxing in the living room. They had lunch here. I guess and they decided to stay for a while.

Dispatch: Received.


From the President

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,

As you know, on July 31 a student of color on the Smith campus was approached by Campus Police, because a Smith staff person reported seeing someone who appeared to be “out of place.” I begin by offering the student involved my deepest apology that this incident occurred and to assure her that she belongs in all Smith spaces. This painful incident reminds us of the ongoing legacy of racism and bias in which people of color are targeted while simply going about the business of their daily lives. It is a powerful reminder that building an inclusive, diverse and sustainable community is urgent and ongoing work.

I have been hearing from members of our community, and I want you to know that I am listening. One young alumna speaks for so many when she writes, “The incident that occurred on campus this week was disappointing and saddening. It's a stark reminder that we have work to do still to make Smith a place where students of color are seen as students and not intruders; that student workers are respected and acknowledged as belonging and mattering.”

Although Smith has been and continues to be committed to promoting a just and inclusive environment for all members of our community, we continue to fall short even as we continue to make progress. But when we fall short in our responsibility to support our students, it is a particularly hard moment for all of us. Clearly, we have important work to do going forward as a community. I write now to inform you of some next steps in our work to hold Smith to the highest standards with respect to inclusion, diversity and equity for all members of our community.  

As members of an academic community, we know that education lies at the heart of prevention as well as intervention. Beginning this fall, every Smith staff member will be required to participate in mandatory anti-bias training. In addition, the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (OIDE), in partnership with Human Resources and the School for Social Work, will hold a series of workshops for faculty and staff focused specifically on topics of identity, inclusion, bias-response and bias-prevention. Further, OIDE will work with Campus Police to strengthen the protocols by which they triage, assess and respond to calls for assistance. And I will continue to offer innovation grants to support student, faculty and staff ideas around inclusion.

Importantly, the college is engaging a third-party investigator to conduct a thorough review of this incident. Although privacy laws preclude Smith from making public personnel-related outcomes of any investigation, I commit to sharing with you any recommendations on policies, procedures or further community training that result.

Members of the Smith campus community share a responsibility to ensure that each of us is safe and each of us is treated with respect. As president, I have made this work a priority, and I will continue to do so in collaboration with vice presidents and senior staff, the Inclusion Council, Faculty Council, Staff Council and the Student Government Association. But we need everyone’s input, and we pledge to listen to you. To that end, I encourage members of our community to send me their ideas via this form. I look forward to partnering with you all in this work as we redress past wrongs and redouble our prevention efforts so that incidents like this never happen again. This work will take reflection and sustained commitment. I am confident this community will rise to the challenge; there is no work that is more important.

Sincerely,

Kathleen McCartney
President, Smith College


From the Institutional Equity Officer

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Yesterday, Campus Police responded to a call from an employee reporting an unknown person who “seemed to be out of place” in a Smith building where the dining area was in use by the college's summer programs. A Campus Police officer responded to the site and spoke with the individual, a Smith undergraduate student of color, who was on a break from her on-campus job. Campus Police found nothing suspicious about the student's presence.

This incident has raised concerns in our community about bias and equity. Smith College does not tolerate race- or gender-based discrimination in any form. Such behavior can contribute to a climate of fear, hostility and exclusion that has no place in our community. I have reached out to the student to offer support and discuss next steps, and will conduct an investigation of the incident with the employee, with Human Resources and with Campus Police.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with concerns or questions.

I strongly encourage any member of the community experiencing bias in any form to immediately notify the college. Confidential reports can be made through EthicsPoint. All reports are investigated in a timely and thorough manner.

Sincerely,

Amy Hunter
Interim Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity; Institutional Equity Officer and Title IX Coordinator


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is investigating the incident?
A: Two experienced attorneys will investigate the incident: Anthony Cruthird and Kate Upatham.

Anthony Cruthird has close to 20 years of experience in the field of civil rights and education. The bulk of his experience stems from his prior role as a senior civil rights attorney and team leader with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), where his work centered on investigating and remedying complaints alleging discrimination on the bases of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age.

Kate Upatham worked for eight years as a Civil Rights Attorney with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  She has conducted numerous investigations including with OCR’s compliance team that proactively ensures that schools receiving Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education, and public entities, are in compliance with the laws enforced by OCR.

Both attorneys are members of the Sanghavi Law Office.

Q: Will the outcome of the investigation be made public?
A: While privacy laws preclude making public any personnel-related outcomes of an investigation, the college will share any recommendations on policies, procedures or further community training that result.

Q: What type of training do Campus Police officers receive?
A: Campus Police officers receive training including, but not limited to:

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Implicit bias (led by the District Attorney’s Office)
  • Trauma-informed victim response
  • Violence prevention and de-escalation
  • Massachusetts State Police training plus an additional nine-week in-house field training

Q: Are college employees required to take anti-bias training?
A: All employees are responsible for understanding and complying with our anti-discrimination policies and many individuals and groups of employees have received anti-bias training through the college. We are expanding these trainings this year and making them mandatory for all staff.

Q: Does Smith outsource its security to the Northampton Police Department or any other armed police department?
A: No. Unarmed Campus Police officers respond to all on-campus calls, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Campus Police may contact the Northampton Police Department for additional support only in those instances where required—large events, major crimes, etc.

Q: What is the name of the employee who called campus police?
A: We are not releasing that information. Under college policy, any campus police records released must have references to involved parties removed. This policy recognizes the potentially adverse consequences of releasing identifying information, especially in cases where doing so may discourage the use of critical safety resources.

Q: Will the employee be sanctioned?
A: The employee has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation. 

Q: Was there a call to 911?
A: No. The caller contacted Smith College's Campus Police dispatch. 

Q: Is there a police report available of the July 31 call to campus police?
A: Per Campus Police, no report was filed since the responding officer determined that the call was unfounded.