Smith College’s COVID-19 response plan, “A Culture of Care,” puts health and safety, students’ education and the Smith experience at its center.
and the college’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Responding to the July 31, 2018, Campus Police Call
On October 29, 2018, President McCartney wrote to the Smith community to share the results of an independent inquiry into events of July 31, 2018, when a Smith employee contacted Campus Police about a student in a residence hall. President McCartney’s letter, the investigation report and other information are presented below.
Report on the Investigation
Following a July 31 call to Campus Police regarding a student of color, the college commissioned an independent investigation. The investigators’ report is presented in full, redacting only those elements that would violate the confidentiality of those interviewed.
College Announces New Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Initiatives
January 30, 2019
As part of ongoing initiatives to strengthen its commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity, Smith College announced a number of steps it is taking to reduce the likelihood of bias-related incidents. Changes the college is making in relation to campus safety were spurred by an incident this summer involving an employee and a student of color that, as Smith President Kathleen McCartney has written, “caused us to reassess and recommit to the work Smith needs to do to be the community we aspire to be.”
Updates on the Investigation
From the President
- Toward Inclusion, Equity and Bias-Prevention, January 30, 2019
- Investigation Into the Events of July 31, October 29, 2018
- Employee Diversity and Bias Training, October 20, 2018
- Welcome to the Start of the 2018–19 Academic Year, September 4, 2018
- Reflections on the Events of July 31, August 30, 2018
- Strengthening Our Community in Response to the Events of July 31, August 2, 2018
From the Institutional Equity Officer
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.
Interim Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity; Institutional Equity Officer and Title IX Coordinator
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.
Interim Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity; Institutional Equity Officer and Title IX Coordinator
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What was the charge to the investigators?
A: The investigators were asked to determine whether any employees violated the college’s Affirmative Action Policy in connection with the incident on July 31, 2018. The college also asked the investigative team, irrespective of its findings, to share recommendations for ways Smith could improve its policies and practices on interactions with persons who may be perceived as suspicious.
Q: Did the external report find the July 31, 2018 incident was the result of bias?
A. No. The investigators ultimately concluded that “the Caller provided a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for calling the Campus Police on the day of the Incident.” Further, “the Investigative Team did not find sufficient information that this decision was based on the Reported Party’s race or color, or violated the Policy.” Nevertheless, the report acknowledges that the student was having lunch near a campus dining area, and that she was put in fear when the officer approached her.
Q: Has the college responded to the student’s request for an apology and to meet with the caller?
A: Yes. President McCartney apologized publicly on August 2, 2018. President McCartney also reached out to the student on August 3, to personally apologize and offer to meet and continues to welcome a meeting with the student. The college offered restorative justice mediation between the student and the caller. The caller has agreed to mediation, and the offer remains open.
Q: Has the college responded to the student’s requests for affinity housing, employee training, changes in policies and procedures, and investigation of the legacy of President Emeritus Neilson?
Regarding specific requests from the student and the ACLU, President McCartney’s letter to the community on September 4 includes pertinent information, including new and existing initiatives. These include:
Affinity housing: The college’s Residential Experience Working Group, which was established earlier this summer, will conduct a comprehensive examination of how Smith, as an educational institution and a residential college, can optimize the learning potential of living and dining in community. This group will address, among other things, affinity housing.
Employee training: The college committed to mandatory anti-bias training for staff and faculty. Please see President McCartney’s October 20 email for more information.
Changes in policies and procedures: The college currently has policies prohibiting race and gender discrimination and robust procedures for prevention and enforcement. See, for example:
For additional information on potential policy changes, see President McCartney’s October 29 letter to the community.
William Allan Neilson served as president of Smith from 1917 to 1939. The ACLU has circulated an excerpt from a previously published 1927 letter from Neilson referencing segregation and student housing. The public is welcome to view and assess Neilson’s legacy via his personal papers, including those that reference his service on the board of the NAACP and his role in founding the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the NAACP.
Out of an interest for transparency and to support research into Neilson’s views on race, the college has digitized two sets of documents:
- Correspondence from the Office of the President under the subject heading of “Black students”
- Items from the William Allan Neilson Personal Papers
The full letter referenced by the ACLU is available in the first link.
The college continues to evaluate additional reforms proposed by the student, guided by the findings and recommendations in the report. As part of the review process, Smith also looks forward to input from campus governance groups such as the Committee on Mission and Priorities and the Inclusion Council.
Q: Will Smith be implementing the recommendations in the report?
A: Smith is carefully considering the recommendations in the report and looks forward to input from the affected parties and the community to fully assess which additional steps are appropriate.
Q: What is the employment status of the staff member who called campus police?
A: The report concluded that no employees violated Smith College policies. Therefore, the college does not anticipate pursuing any adverse employment action in connection with the events of July 31. However, the report has identified certain areas for improvement in Smith’s training for employees, including on encounters with people on campus who may appear to be unfamiliar or out of place. Smith is assessing potential enhancements to its staff trainings to address concerns about the influence of implicit bias in this area.
Q: What information has been redacted from the investigative report?
A: The substance and findings of the independent investigation have not been changed or redacted. The college has, however, redacted certain language to preserve confidentiality consistent with college policy, relating to those interviewed in the investigation.
Q: Have any lawsuits been filed in relation to the July 31 incident?
Q: What is the nature of the ACLU’s involvement?
A: Although no lawsuits have been filed, an ACLU attorney is providing counsel to the student and has been in communication with the college since late August.
Q: Social media posts from August 21 purport to identify the caller to Campus Police. Are the posts accurate?
A: No. Neither of the individuals named in these posts placed the call.
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: 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: Yes. Please read President McCartney’s October 20, 2018 email to the community regarding employee diversity and bias training.
Q: Does Smith outsource its security to the Northampton Police Department or any other armed police department?
A: No. 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: Are Campus Police officers armed?
A: No. Campus Police officers do not carry firearms.
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: A Community Incident Report was filed recording the Campus Police officer’s response to the call. The Community Incident Report is included as an exhibit to the investigative report.
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.
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.