April 15, 2019
I join so many members of our community in thanking you for your advocacy on behalf of those who do not feel a sense of belonging at Smith. As I told those of you who marched to College Hall on April 11, I was moved by the stories I heard, which helped me to see the pain that some of you are experiencing. I also appreciated receiving greater clarity about your specific concerns and demands.
At the April 10 inclusion conference, many students asked how decisions are made at Smith. I lead a team of dedicated people, and we lead change as a team. Accordingly, I have formed a working group to move forward on next steps. The working group includes Dean of Admission Deanna Dixon, Dean of the College and Vice President for Campus Life Susan Etheredge, Institutional Equity Officer and Title lX Coordinator Amy Hunter, Dean of Students and Associate Dean of the College Julie Ohotnicky, Associate Dean of the College Danielle Ramdath, Dean of Multicultural Affairs L’Tanya Richmond, Vice President for Enrollment Audrey Smith, and Associate Dean for International Study Caitlin Szymkowicz.
I have already committed to several of the items students raised. In February, I informed SGA at a lunch meeting with trustees that we will be hiring two additional mental health counselors with the capacity to respond effectively to the needs of a diverse student body. At the College Hall gathering last week, I pledged to establish a fund to address the costs of learning disability testing for low-income students.
There are many competing demands for resources at Smith. Members of our community have big hopes and dreams for Smith, such as more financial aid, new facilities and new staff positions. As always, any new initiatives would require repurposing existing resources or raising funds. Accordingly, I will be seeking input from students to help me prioritize inclusion initiatives.
Like many of you, I came to the inclusion conference as a learner and a listener, seeking to deepen my understanding of what this community needs. If you attended the opening session of the conference, you heard me say that Smith needs to change. We are called to think, act and speak across difference and to change systems and practices that stand in the way of a truly inclusive community. I look forward to making progress together.