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A Message From President McCartney

July 13, 2016

​​Dear Students, Staff and Faculty;

Since commencement on May 15, the Smith community, the nation and the world have continued to witness horrific violence. We are grieving the loss of so many, including 49 people in Orlando, one of whom was Kim “KJ” Morris, a former Smith employee with deep ties to our community; 45 people in Istanbul; 24 people in Dhaka; hundreds in Baghdad; Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota; and five Dallas police officers, protecting peaceful protesters: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa. As we are all acutely aware, innocent people have been killed for their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs, their race, their nationality, and their occupation.

I have heard from many members of our community who have experienced profound shock, pain, anger, confusion and sorrow. Certainly, these emotions describe my own reaction these past weeks. As New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote, “We seem caught in a cycle of escalating atrocities without an easy way out, without enough clear voices of calm, without tools for reduction, without resolutions that will satisfy.”

It is our collective responsibility to reflect on the role of higher education in addressing the violence we are witnessing all too frequently, especially violence associated with discrimination based on identity. Social justice has been an important part of the fabric of Smith since our inception; we must do more.

For the past 16 months, we have been developing a strategic plan that includes two goals relevant to this discussion: a commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity and the desire to work on seemingly intractable problems. Going forward, we will create funding opportunities to support research, teaching, learning and activism that aim to address these problems, especially racism which lies at the heart of so much violence in the world.

Over the course of the summer, I will be working with the Cabinet, Faculty Council, Staff Council, the Student Government Association, the Board of Trustees and the Alumnae Association on programs for our community that advance this work. And I invite you to share your suggestions with me directly at

We are fortunate that Harvard psychology professor Mahzarin Banaji has agreed to lead a workshop on implicit bias for the Smith community on October 28. We will announce additional programs and engagement opportunities in the coming weeks.

As we struggle to remain hopeful in a world where violence has become all too common, let us remember the recent words of President Barack Obama: “Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let’s reflect on what we can do better. Let’s come together as a nation, and keep faith with one another.”


Kathleen McCartney