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Smith’s Commitment to Equity and Inclusion

September 5, 2019

Dear students, staff and faculty,

The three of us write today to outline our reflections on, and plans for, deepening Smith’s commitment to equity and inclusion, based on our collective work over the summer with many thought partners. 

We began with the goal of defining what inclusion is—and isn’t—in the context of a campus community. We understand inclusion to be intentional, intersectional and ever improvable. It is a dynamic process -- as we each work through stages of learning, knowledge, and engagement. We recognize that inclusion is not assimilation. To borrow a metaphor from music, inclusion means that new voices will not merely add to a predetermined harmony, but also will transform our song.

Next, we created a timeline to make our collective commitments and progress on inclusion—past, present and future—visible and transparent. We want to highlight staffing changes. Specifically, we are adding six staff positions in three areas: Equity and Inclusion, the Counseling Center and the Lazarus Center for Career Development. And we have begun to seek input regarding the enhancement of existing spaces, like the Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender, and the development of new spaces for historically underserved affinity groups.

One of the concerns raised by students last spring was a need for clarity on how members of our community can effect change at Smith. We offer this letter as an invitation to work with us and others through new and established pathways. 

Students, for example, can pursue equity and inclusion initiatives via the Student Government Association. Faculty are represented by Faculty Council and participate in groups rooted in academic departments and divisions, such as the Science Center Committee on Diversity. Staff Council is deeply committed to equity and inclusion programming. Further, many departments, such as the libraries and alumnae relations and development, have established committees and initiatives focused specifically on equity and inclusion. 

In addition, any member of the campus community is invited to join one of five Action Teams—on Identity/Representation, Education/Learning, Communication, Engagement, and Justice—convened by the Office for Equity and Inclusion to develop recommendations from last spring’s Inclusion in Action conference. On Monday, you will learn more in a letter from the Inclusion in Action working group.

Inclusion is a shared responsibility, and we are heartened by the engagement of so many. At the same time, we recognize that some members of the community may feel that being asked to advance inclusion creates an unequal burden for them. Please know that we want your ideas even if you yourself do not choose to serve directly. Each of us has the agency to decide how to engage in this work—and there is still much work to do. This fall, we will be reaching out to hear from members of the Smith community about effective ways to create and sustain an inclusive campus culture. An important touchstone will be Otelia Cromwell Day (Nov. 7), the theme of which, this year, is “Acknowledging Injustice and Practicing Anti-racism.”

The three of us are deeply invested in creating a more just and inclusive Smith, a community where all can thrive. We approach this work from a growth mindset, believing that new abilities—and culture change—can be achieved with effort, learning, and persistence. We wake up every day wanting to get this work right. We are here for you and committed to hearing every voice.

Sincerely,

Kathleen McCartney, President

Floyd Cheung, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion

Susan Etheredge, Dean of the College and Vice President for Campus Life