Letters to the Community
January 28, 2020
As we begin the spring semester, I write to update you on progress toward our shared goals of equity and inclusion.
During my first seven months as vice president for equity and inclusion, I have talked with many student groups and individuals to better understand your needs and how they might intersect. By collaborating with colleagues and offices across campus, the Office for Equity and Inclusion has helped lead significant progress towards improving equity and inclusion at Smith. Here are some highlights.
Smith has increased capacity to support marginalized groups by:
- designating a point person—program and outreach coordinator Raven Fowlkes-Witten ’17—to support undocumented, trans, and gender non-conforming students
- designating a point person—inclusion trainer/facilitator Toby Davis ’03—to support low-income, first-generation and trans students
- hiring two additional mental health counselors—Jamecia Estes and Lil Kraus—with the capacity to serve the needs of a diverse student body
- forming the Accessibility Inclusion Committee to survey buildings and programs across campus and to advise decision makers on increasing accessibility. Laura Rauscher and Amy Hunter, co-ADA/504 coordinators, will chair the group
Smith has committed to improving and creating spaces for affinity by:
- upgrading appliances and decor in Unity House, which serves all unity organizations
- renovating and furnishing the reading room in Helen Hills Chapel—with the assistance of members of the low-income and undocumented communities—into a space for relaxation, rejuvenation, and resistance
- consulting with current and possible future users of the Resource Center for Gender and Sexuality to address the needs of trans and non-binary students, staff and faculty
Smith has engaged the broader community in advancing equity and inclusion by:
- continuing efforts begun during the Inclusion in Action day of learning via a working group and action teams devoted to an area of need: identity/representation, education/learning, communication, engagement and justice
- reconstituting the Inclusion Council as a body charged with advising the Office for Equity and Inclusion
- forming affinity groups for staff and faculty
- supporting new innovation challenge projects, thanks to special funding from President McCartney
Smith has created opportunities for coming together across identities by
- celebrating champions for Smith students: staff, faculty and students nominated by any entering student as individuals who helped them feel like they belong at Smith
- starting an official Justice Choir, which welcomes students, staff and faculty of all levels of singing ability to practice and perform together
- distributing “Yes, You” cards to promote the idea that anyone can pass on words of affirmation
Smith has expanded our capacity to learn about the history of racism in America and promising practices around equity and inclusion by:
- offering IDP102: Thinking Through Race this spring in which students can earn one credit and others can audit
- giving all faculty and instructional staff the opportunity to enhance their skills in facilitating critical conversations
- developing new, in-house educational opportunities under the leadership of director of equal opportunity Amy Hunter, and our new inclusion trainer/facilitator, Toby Davis ’03
Work is in progress towards gender-neutral bathrooms, the ability to designate pronouns in Workday and more. For continuing updates on these efforts and others, see our timeline, Towards Equity and Inclusion.
If you have ideas about how to improve equity and inclusion at Smith, please contact me or make an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling x2141. I also will be holding open hours at the campus center this semester.
Finally, please save the afternoon of March 30. President McCartney and I will host a one-year update event that will feature work done by the Inclusion in Action teams and Innovation Grant recipients.
Have a wonderful semester!
Vice President, Office for Equity and Inclusion
Professor, Department of English and American Studies Program
Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063