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Inclusion in Action: One-Year Update, President McCartney, April 2020

In April 2019, in an address in John M. Greene Hall, higher education scholar Anthony Abraham Jack, author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, accelerated a vital conversation here at Smith about what it means to experience full belonging on a college campus.

Speaking at Inclusion in Action, Smith’s first community day of learning, Professor Jack reminded us that citizenship in a community or institution is about more than just being in a place—it’s about being of a place. Inclusion means being—and feeling—welcomed, respected and valued.

Inclusion is recognizing and valuing the dignity and worth of all people.

We learned a lot at the Inclusion in Action conference—about one another, about ourselves as individuals and members of groups, and about the work we still have to do to ensure that the rights and privileges of education belong not to a few of us but to all of us.

I recognize that some members of our community approached the conference with skepticism, fearing that it was a one-off event, rather than the beginning of a re-energized commitment to this work. But I have seen change happen this academic year, thanks to our 10-person team, led by Vice President for Inclusion and Equity Floyd Cheung.

In the year since Inclusion in Action, our community has come to embrace the understanding that inclusion is a shared responsibility. Action Teams have formulated recommendations to achieve our highest purpose: creating and sustaining a just and inclusive campus.

I ask each of you to read the presentations from each working group and reflect on the recommendations they propose. You will notice some cross-cutting themes across the working groups, such as the ongoing need for more people of color across all sectors of our community. You will see some newly articulated desires as well, such as the need for informal, low-stakes events on campus, where students, staff and faculty can engage across differences. I am grateful to the members of the working groups for their dedication and thoughtfulness and excited about the ways their recommendations will inform our work as well as the college’s forthcoming strategic plan for equity and inclusion.

However imperfect our world, we must ensure that all members of our community know that they are a treasured part of Smith; no goal is more important to me. It is my dream that Smith becomes the standard-bearer for inclusive and equitable learning, a place where students want to study because our deep commitment to this work is visible in everything we do.

Kathleen McCartney