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From Smith College Students in Support of Diversity

Smith College Students' Commitment to Diversity Strong, Ad Campaign Shows

"Smith College Students Support Diversity in Higher Education" reads an advertisement that Smith students placed today in the Springfield Union-News, the largest daily newspaper in western Massachusetts with a circulation of 100,000.

Students collected more than 1,000 signatures of Smith students on a petition in support of diversity in higher education. These signatures appear in the ad following the text of the petition.

The students organizing the ad campaign hope to draw attention to the necessity of diversity to academic institutions, says Amy Brown, a first-year student at Smith from New Haven, Conn. "This ad will demonstrate how important it is to students that we have a diverse campus."

The ad that appears today is the first part of an ad campaign launched entirely by students. "We are actively searching for more funding to place more ads in more papers," says Jennifer Friedman, a sophomore from Moraga, Calif. "We hope to get our message across in as many places as possible."

Students signed a petition that states: "As students at Smith College, we declare our support for maintaining and increasing diversity in college admissions. In our experience, policies that expand racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity in higher education are essential in promoting equal access to education, improving the quality of education for all students, and contributing to equality of opportunity in the society at large."

"It is significant that so many students publicly pledged their support for diversity in higher education. This proves that to students from around the country, campus diversity makes a difference," says April Love, a junior from Denver, Colo. The 1,000 signatures represent 38 percent of the 2,600 Smith students currently studying on campus.

A broad coalition of students collected signatures for the petition. Members of United for Affirmative Action, Student Government Association, Black Students Alliance, Student Labor Action Coalition, Feminists of Smith Unite, and Prism (queer women of color), as well as other organizations participated in the petition drive.

By placing advertisements in newspapers, the students are borrowing a tactic from organizations attacking diversity in higher education, such as the Center for Individual Rights (CIR). "Groups like the CIR are not representing what is in the best interest of students. We are publicly stating that students support racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity in higher education," explains Allison Palmer, a senior from Rochester, Minn.

Although the ad is one of the first public declarations of support for diversity, Smith students have long been committed to diversity. "Smith College has a very active movement in support of diversity," notes Aisha Domingue, a first-year student from New Orleans, La. "Recently, students have organized teach-ins and written informational brochures about campus diversity. There are also several student organizations that promote diversity, so it is very easy to get involved in the movement."

The students promise to continue the ad campaign and other activities as long as necessary. "Until diversity in higher education is no longer under attack, we will continue to be very active," says Georgianna Goodman, a junior from Queens, N.Y. "As students, we are the ones personally affected by the attempts to decrease diversity."

"Now is the time to broaden access to education, not reduce it. I support increasing educational opportunities for people who have not traditionally had access to a college education. All students benefit from a college with students from diverse backgrounds," says Elizabeth Miller, a first-year student from South Bend, Ind.

Students stress that a diverse campus prepares them for a diverse world. "Diversity in college allows students to have contact with people from all backgrounds that enhances not only their understanding of the world and individuals' experiences, but also themselves and where they come from," says Missy Longshore, a Smith senior from Spokane, Wash.

April 23, 1999


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