Smith told The Sophian the college remains dedicated to its affirmative action policies amidst the Department of Justice’s plan to investigate and sue universities over such admission policies which allegedly discriminate against white students.
Sunnie Ning ‘18 News Editor
On Monday, March 27, Henry Louis Gates Jr., literary critic, professor, historian, filmmaker and public intellectual discussed his thoughts on “Black America Since MLK” in a Presidential Colloquium at Smith College.
Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. An Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, he has created 15 documentary films, including “Wonders of the African World,” “African American Lives,” “Faces of America,” “Black in Latin America” and the PBS television series “Finding Your Roots.”
Gates was greeted by a large crowd. Audience members included students, faculty, staff and local community members. Curious participants completely packed the Weinstein Auditorium, and an overflow room was set up in the Carroll Room.
In the opening introduction, President Kathleen McCartney thanked Alexys Butler ’16 and N’dea Drayton ’16, the two former Black Students’ Alliance co-chairs who first brought up the idea of inviting Gates to Smith. “Last spring, they asked me to invite Professor Gates to speak at Smith,” McCartney said, crediting the two recent alums.
The colloquium began with a 20-minute viewing of Gates’ most recent documentary, “Black America after MLK: And Still I Rise,” in which he embarks on a personal journey through the last fifty years of African American history. Joined by scholars, celebrities, activists and their personal stories, Gates narrates the history of African Americans from the victories of the Civil Rights Movement up to now, ending with an optimistic tone for the victory of justice and equality.
After the viewing McCartney posed a few questions to Gates before moving on to a question and answer session with the crowd. His humor and frequent reference to anecdotes often made his audience laugh, yet left them pensive.
When McCartney asked what he thought of race and gender, Gates said that strong female role models in his life connected him to feminism. “I’m always aware of the parallels between the fight for equal pay, for equal work, and the fact that people will look at you and think you should lower your expectations because you are a woman,” said Gates. He also acknowledged the compounding effects of racism and sexism and the need to combat that. “I don’t know what the algorithm for racism plus sexism is like, but it’s hell,” said Gates, “I don’t know what that is like, but I know it’s still around, and we have to fight that.”
McCartney also asked if the optimism at the end of the documentary still holds after Trump’s election into the White House, and if progressivism is withering away. Gates emphasized the importance of staying optimistic. He also addressed the importance of respecting people at the opposite end of the political spectrum. He noted how fifty years ago, people agreed to disagree, whereas now, having friends with opposite political ideologies has become increasingly rare. “The problems confronting us, in terms of racism, classism, sexism, are so complicated that we have to be humble enough to say none of us has the solutions, that our traditional ideology has failed. We need to try to find fresh solutions to the problems, and not demonizing each other just because of [their] state of political correctness,” commented Gates.
An audience member asked a question about scientific research on PTSD’s ability to affect later generations, and how this could have altered our understanding of the impact of structural and systematic oppression over generations. Gates answered that emphasis has to be placed on both structural and behavioral changes. He stressed the need for black community leaders to push for behavior changes, but also emphasized that public education needs to be equally funded. “We have to do both things,” concluded Gates.
Jenna Pepe ‘19, Katie Hitchcock-Smith ’17 and Kristine Chin ‘17 Contributing Writers
The Smith College Bipartisan Coalition has just announced that they will be bringing the floating head of Richard Nixon to campus. He will be joining Republican presidential speechwriter Lindsay Hayes on April 5 at 8 p.m. in Seeyle 106 to be interviewed in front of a live audience.
This is an unusual appearance from President Nixon, as his head has been cryogenically frozen in a jar since his death. Though his whereabouts have been unknown for years, it is rumored that he has been in a relative’s basement collecting dust and befriending the mice that happen to be within his sight.
The Sophian has confirmed that the Bipartisan Coalition was able to secure such prestigious speakers through the connections the club members have. One source stated that they were able to get in contact with Smith graduate Julie Eisenhower Nixon ’70, who happily dusted off President Nixon and FedEx’ed his head by priority mail to arrive before the event. Lindsay Hayes, who wrote for 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was also confirmed shortly thereafter. As we reported last year, Mitt Romney is probably undeniably the father of Bipartisan Coalition honcho Katie Hitchcock-Smith.
Both the former president and presidential speechwriter will be speaking about their lives and current political affairs. Though highly confidential information, a source close to the Bipartisan Coalition has shared a copy of the questions that will be asked during the event with the Sophian. We confirm such questions will consist of, “Why did you turn down Donald Trump in the primaries?” “How do you craft the voice of a candidate?” and “What was it like being stuck in a basement since your death in 1994?” It is unclear at this time which questions are intended for which speaker.
Katrina Derderian ’18, who will be interviewing President Nixon and Hayes, believes that this event will launch the organization to the next level. During the conversation, she also revealed that the Bipartisan Coalition would be inviting more “floating-heads” to speak about current political affairs. “We hope one of the next speakers will be the head of a journalist White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer bites off, it’s just a matter of time!”
Supporters of the organization agree with Derderian that this event could be pivotal in accruing positive support for the organization on Smith campus. As for this event, at least so far, it appears that there might actually be more attendees than protestors.
Sunnie Ning ‘18 News Editor
The Smith College Office of Student Engagement has announced that it will offer a new workshop series to help student de-stress and navigate registration period.
From April 3 to 14, Smith students will register for classes for Fall 2017. Since the release of the new course catalog, students have already spent hours researching, crying about courses not offered and panicking about what will happen if they can’t get into the classes they want.
This year, the stress levels around course registration have hit a new high due to the new 19-credit pre-registration constraint. “I’ve already spent more than 20 hours, and I’ve only narrowed down my list to 24 credits. I just can’t narrow it down further,” said Emily Levansky ’18.
Other students expressed frustration at classes not offered the coming semester and fear of not being able to graduate. “I need this class for my major and it’s the prerequisite for the upper-level classes, but they are not offering it next year,” said Leah Morris ’19 with tears in her eyes. “I worry I will not have enough time to finish my major.”
Other sources of stress include an inconsistency between the department website and the course catalog, classes with incompatible schedules, advisers that are incredibly hard to reach, the crashing registration website and much more.
The school’s counseling service has seen an increase in the number of appointments since the release of the course catalogue. The number of students seeking advice from student academic advisers has also risen, increasing the burden for students filling these volunteer positions.
To address the rising stress level, a new workshop series will be offered during the first two weeks of April. Titled “Surviving Registration,” the series will address issues such as how to avoid spending hours on the course catalog, how to put together a manageable schedule, how to find your academic adviser and how to stay calm when you are waitlisted for a class.
The registrar will also host a weekly reception for students with questions. The Class Deans office, counseling service and reslife will also participate in the workshop series. The counseling service will open a new hotline for registration-related emergencies.
The organizers said that there is a high demand for a workshop like this, and they have received support from students. “We need to acknowledge that registration-related stress is a real issue on campus. Through the workshop series, we want to offer tools and support for students going through this difficult time,” Melissa Strong, a staff member at OSE, said.
If the workshop series becomes successful, the OSE expects to offer it again in the fall during the add/drop period. “We expect the demand to be even higher, because we will be working with new first-year students who will have no experience dealing with such stress,” said Strong.
Many faculty members have also expressed their support for this workshop series. “Each year we get so many franctic emails asking questions or expressing frustration during the registration period. It is the most stressful time of the semester for us, dealing with these intense emotions. Hopefully the workshop series will help students stay calm this time,” an anonymous professor from the government department said.
Tyra Wu ‘19 Associate Editor
After multiple reports of hypothermia and a very close encounter involving a snow plow at full speed, a crosswalk and one nearly flattened student, Smith College has decided to add a mandatory class for first-year students on how to survive the New England winter. This class will teach these winter newbies about the many strange phenomena of winter. The course aims to cover topics like layering, wind chill and even includes a special lecture titled, “The Deadly Dangers of Black Ice and How to Avoid It.”
At first, Smith College administrators believed that students did not need additional education on the topic and would acclimate quickly, but feedback from bewildered students has since convinced them otherwise.
“New England winter is a unique beast,” Sarah Price ’18 said. “It’s not enough to have a winter coat and boots, you need to know the survival skills.”
Many students unfamiliar with New England weather arrive on campus severely underestimating the brutality of the winter. One student from California foolishly thought she could get through the winter wearing a lightweight fall coat, but abruptly had that delusion shattered. Another student mistook the snow salt for soy sauce.
“They never do tell you just how bad New England winter is,” Carla James ’20 said. “I mean, we had a snowstorm in March, what kind of abomination is that?”
Students have also expressed surprise at the length of winter in the New England region, where the weather is very unpredictable and the cold can last through the month of April.
“It gets to the point in the year when you feel like it should be spring, and yet here comes another snowstorm,” Ally Rigatoni ’19 said. “Plus the snow sticks around afterward so it’s half grass, half snow and all sadness.”
The class will focus on several different winter-related topics including winter skincare tips, driving tips and how to dress. There will also be a special lecture from a visiting professor from Amherst College titled, “Wintry Mix: The Weather from Hell.” The course aims to dispel common misconceptions about winter. It will be taught Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week from 9:00 to 10:20 a.m. Professors from several departments, specifically those who grew up outside of the New England region, have been invited to contribute to the course.
The culminating final project for the course will include a Bear Grylls’ style contest in which students are dropped off in a random location in the middle of winter and must find their way back to the Smith campus. Students will be graded on speed as well as endurance. Only thirty percent will receive A’s and make it back to Smith safely.
Through this class, Smith College administrators hope to alleviate the culture shock that often comes with Smithies’ first winter. Furthermore, they hope to appease concerned parents and reduce the number of questions that they get during campus visits about the do’s and don’ts of winter. By the end of this course, Smithies are guaranteed to be ready to take on the harsh New England weather.
Maryellen Stohlman-Vanderveen‘19 Staff Writer
New concerns about the effect that the Neilson Library renovation project will have on student tardiness have pushed the Smith administration to approve a plan which will install a new lift system to help students get to class on time during center campus construction. The college approved the new plan for the Smith Student Lift Service in response to both student and faculty complaints about how the current construction project on center campus walkways was making students late for class.
“Quite frankly, it’s been really tough getting to my nine a.m. classes in Seelye,” one first year complained about the current work. “I live on the quad and I’ve been late this entire week. I can’t imagine what it will be like next year once the construction on the library renovation begins.”
“I’ve seen at least a 50 percent increase in student tardiness following spring break,” one Statistics professor whose class meets in Bass Hall said. “I took a small survey to try to figure out why, and I found out that it is mostly my students who live on Elm Street that are being made late by the construction when they cross center campus.”
The Smith administration announced their approval for the lift in a statement published in the weekly Paradise Notes bulletin:
“The college is pleased to announce that the proposed plan for the Smith Student Lift Service has been approved. This plan addresses faculty and student concerns that were raised about potential disruptions to class schedules caused by the Neilson Library Renovation project. Construction has been set to start in June of 2017 following Commencement Weekend and the closing of the college thanks to a generous donation which was provided by an anonymous donor. It is expected to be completed before August 28th and the start of the Fall 2017 semester.”
The final blueprint for the lift system has yet to be released, but based on a report provided by Smith’s Facilities Management, it has been gathered that the project will include two lines of transport. One line will connect Seelye lawn to Chapin lawn while the other will connect Seelye Lawn to the Science Quad. Both lines will pass over the Neilson Library renovation site, and will be capable of carrying students in both directions in order to help ease the flow of traffic on the ground.
The Smith Student Lift Service will also include gondola-style cars to provide students with both warmth and protection from the elements during cold winter commutes to class. Each car is built to transport eight students at a time.
“I have complete faith in the gondola service provided by Smith College, and am pleased to know that Smith is putting its finances into something that directly benefits its students. I am confident that the construction of the gondolas will be complete well before construction on the library ends,” said Abby Weaver ’19 who helped to write the proposal to the administration
Despite the plan’s inclusion of ambient music, comfortable seating and a complimentary beverage service on all rides (complete with hot chocolate, coffee and a selection of teas), not all students support the administration’s decision.
“I oppose most things Smith does and I’m especially opposed to their plan to build a lift system through center campus,” said Be Worrell ’18J. “Death by gondola is all too real. 1 in 800 people die every year in gondola accidents... Actually, that might be mopeds. But my point still stands, Smith’s lift plan sucks.”
In the wake of Trump’s horrifying immigration ban, the first family of Iraqi refugees arrived in Northampton after nearly a year of planning by Catholic Charities and local volunteers. The family was welcomed into one of the volunteer’s homes while other volunteers work to find them permanent housing. As part of the Northampton Refugee Resettlement program, a contract between the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the US State Department has approved the city for refugee resettlement and opened the door for refugee related grants.
The program plans to host 51 people, or approximately 10 families, from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq and possibly Afghanistan. According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, they plan to stagger the refugees’ arrivals throughout 2017, with about five refugees arriving each month. However, when families do arrive, they often find themselves without essentials like winter clothing, sanitary pads and cleaning supplies. As a part of the larger effort to support the refugee resettlement in Northampton, donations are being collected in collaboration with the Jandon Center for Community Engagement, the Lewis Global Studies Center and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
This project has been funded by President McCartney’s Innovation challenge, which aims to support projects that strengthen the Smith community and beyond. In particular the drive has asked for donations of cleaning supplies, clothing and money that is largely put toward reducing housing costs for the newly relocated families. There is an urgent need for cleaning supplies like trash bags, mops and all-purpose cleaners.
Kavita Bhandari ’16 has been working with the Jandon Center to help collect the donations. Bhandari is responsible for organizing programs for marginalized groups on campus.
“I have been actively involved in collecting the donations; I organized the clothing drive, menstrual products drive and cleaning supplies drive,” Bhandari said. “Over the course of the academic year, I have been holding tabling sessions in the Campus Center to raise funds that would go toward providing rental assistance to the refugee families.”
The Jandon Center will be collecting donations until spring break. After that, they plan to relaunch the drives depending on the particular items that are still needed. The Jandon Center also collaborated with Higher Education for Refugees at Smith to hold a clothing drive from October to January, to collect winter clothes for the refugees.
Additionally, the three organizations will be hosting John Bartle, a professor of Russian at Hamilton College. He will give a lecture on March 23 at 7 p.m., in Seeyle 203, discussing The Refugee Project, a study working to build an interactive archive of refugee communities in Central New York.
For students interested in helping out, there is a need for language interpreters fluent in Arabic, French and Swahili. The community at large can support the efforts by donating in cash or to the ongoing drives for cleaning supplies and toiletries.
“It’s been important to me to collect donations and mobilize resources so as to do what I can to ease and make smoother the families’ transitions to a different context, many of whom are arriving with little or no resources, and may be fleeing difficult, life-threatening circumstances,” Bhandari said.
Sunnie Yi Ning '18 News Editor
On Mar. 4, Smith College celebrated the successful culmination of its Women for the World Campaign featuring a keynote performance by actress, playwright and social commentator Anna Deavere Smith.
From 1 to 7 p.m., the day was packed with activities for the Smith community to celebrate the success, express thanks to the generous donors and showcase its changes. The daylong program also included open house tours of 20 different campus locations, student panel presentations, free admission to the art museum and much more. Many donors were invited to see the transformation of the Smith campus and community. The festivitues concluded with an all-college reception in Ford Hall, featuring refreshments, special digital media displays and a photo booth for sharing Smith pride.
On Feb. 17, President Kathleen McCartney announced that Smith had raised $486 million for Women for the World Campaign, the college’s largest funding campaign by far, surpassing the goal of $450 million. Launched publicly in 2012, the campaign prioritized financial aid, reimagining the liberal arts and The Smith Fund, which supports Smith’s operating expenses. More than 37,000 donors contributed to this effort, and the alumnae participation rate is at 53 percent. For financial aid, the college raised nearly $130 million, and it is planning to use that money to provide more and better awards for students. The “Reimagining the Liberal Arts” initiative will use $184 million for new professorships, majors and facilities, including the new Statistics and Data Sciences major and Middle East Studies major. Another $181 million will go toward yearly operating costs and other initiatives.
Many of the open houses featured in the program were made possible through generous donations from organizations such as the Design Thinking Initiative, the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center and the Lewis Global Studies Center.
The success of the Women for the World Campaign has captured media attention. ABC News, the Associate Press, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Inside Higher Ed and many other media outlets have covered this record-breaking campaign.
The previous record for a fund-raising campaign by a women’s college was $472 million, set by Wellesley College when it finished a campaign in 2005.
In a community email on Feb. 17, McCartney invited the whole community to join the celebration. “The campaign brought out the best in our community, exemplifying our collective commitment to educating women for leadership and ensuring that talented and ambitious women everywhere continue to have access to the most powerful form of liberal arts: a Smith education,” said McCartney.
In an interview with The Sophian, President McCartney said that donors are interested and eager to be part of the Smith community. “I’ve been part of the extraordinarily emotional moments with alumnae who are just very excited about their gifts,” she reflected.
Regarding the celebration, Beth Balmuth Raffeld, the vice president for development at Smith College, said that it is a way to manifest our pride in the Smith community.
“Interested philanthropy is the alumna’s way to continue to engage through Smith. And every single person - whether a current student, or all the way to our oldest alumnae - everybody can be proud of what is happening with this campaign, because Smith has never been stronger,” said Raffeld. “We are finding ways to celebrate with everyone who has donated to the campaign. Everybody is happy to be a part of the celebration.”
Somewhere in this issue of the Sophian (paper version) is our mascot, Olive the Owl. She is hidden on one of the pages, but which one is a mystery! Check each article you read to see if you can find her. For an extra challenge, race your friends to see who can find her first.
When you find Olive, post a picture of her on Instagram or Facebook and tag us. The first person to find her will be mentioned in the next issue.
Instagram: @thesophian Facebook: @smithsophian
Katherine Hazen ‘18 Associate Editor
Last week, Smith honored the achievements of five alumnae with the Smith Medal, a tradition acknowledging alumnae who illustrate the values of a liberal arts education through their lives and work. Students and alumnae nominate candidates for the award.
“After nominations, a committee made up of representatives of the trustees, the faculty and the alumnae recommends candidates for the award to the board of trustees,” said Director of Media Relations Stacey Schmeidel. Over 200 alumnae have been honored with the Smith Medal since its founding in 1962.
This year’s medalists included eminent winemaker/winery owner Helen Sebring Keplinger ’94, cardiac pulmonologist and surgeon Vickie Shannon ’79, feminist activist and icon Gloria Steinem ’56, economist Laura D’Andrea Tyson ’69 and broadcast news executive Ellen Weiss ’81.
Steinem — one of Smith’s most famous alumni — grew to prominence as a leader of the feminist movement of the 1960s. As an author, editor and founder of Ms. Magazine, Steinem’s voice has and continues to reach generations of women. Steinem was instrumental in the founding of several groups focused on women in politics and the media, including National Women’s Political Caucus, Ms. Foundation for Women, Women’s Action Alliance, Choice USA, the Women’s Media Center and GreenStone Media.
Tyson, the first woman to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisors, began her career as an assistant professor of economics at Princeton, moving to and spending much of her career at University of California, Berkeley. After her tenure in the Clinton Administration, she became the first woman to lead a business school as dean of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, after which she became the first woman to lead London Business School. Tyson is also the co-author of the Global Gender Gap Report.
As one of the first two African American women to become a full professor at the renowned University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Shannon has broken racial and gender barriers throughout her career as a board-certified pulmonary and critical care specialist. She helped start a pulmonary rehabilitation program for patients weakened by cancer to improve their muscle strength and lung functions. Shannon also has dedicated herself to inspire women to consider and mentoring those careers in STEM.
Four-time recipient of the Peabody Award, Weiss began working at National Public Radio after graduating from Smith, eventually leading the station’s national desk and serving as executive producer of “All Things Considered.” After leading as vice president for news at NPR, Weiss became executive editor at the prestigious nonprofit investigative news organization, Center for Public Integrity. Weiss has held the position of vice president and Washington bureau chief of the E.W. Scripps Company since 2013.
Keplinger has risen to fame with her socially responsible entrepreneurship in the winemaking world. After graduating from Smith with a degree in biology, Keplinger started as a medical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital. She changed course and pursued a master’s in enology from University of California, Davis, working at wineries in Australia and Spain. After founding her artisanal winery Keplinger in Napa Valley, Calif., she received praise from many critics and was even named Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine magazine. She has partnered with and raised funds for good causes throughout her career, including Wine for the World, in which U.S. and European winemakers help vintners in developing countries.
Tyra Wu ‘19 Assistant News Editor
Night at Your Museum is an annual after-hours, student-only event hosted by the Smith College Art Museum featuring live music, food and crafts. This year’s theme was inspired by the Mediterranean, featuring Mediterranean-style mocktails, appetizers and desserts. Students were also invited to dress as their favorite deities. The event took place in the Brown Fine Arts Center Atrium in the Museum of Art on Feb. 24, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
In addition to SCMA’s expansive collection, students were also invited to purview the special exhibition, Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis Near Pompeii. This exhibition centers on the ancient town of Oplontis, a site that was buried and preserved when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E. It is the first major exhibition to address this site rather than the more famous sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Excavations have revealed many pieces including sculpture, jewelry and everyday utilitarian objects. SCMA is one of three national venues for the exhibition, as well as the only East Coast venue. For those who did not see the exhibit, it will be at the SCMA until Aug. 13. In celebration of this exhibit, the museum was decorated like an Italian villa, complete with centerpieces overflowing with Mediterranean snacks.
WOZQ, Smith College’s F.M. radio station, was also present at the event, DJ-ing music throughout the night. Many students chose to dress up, wearing togas and flowy dresses as well as elaborate headpieces. There was also hands-on art making provided, in which students could choose between making a bracelet, headpiece or necklace.
“I loved seeing everyone dressed up for the theme,” Laura Krok-Horton ’17 said. “Some students did a fantastic job with their outfits and make-shift crowns. The event allowed for a lot of creativity and excitement.”
In preparation for the event, the SCMA held a student-design contest to create a special Snapchat filter. Students submitted a design for a filter reflecting the museum’s theme. The winner was Erika Yoshii ’17. The museum also offered Polaroid pictures for the students to take with friends during the event.
“I really liked that they took Polaroid pictures during the event because we were able to walk away with a tangible memory from the night,” Ali Meneghetti ’19 said.
Night at Your Museum began in 2011 as a student-focused marketing and membership initiative for SCMA. Maggie Lind Newey and the late Ann Musser furthered the event in order to create memorable museum experiences for students. Night at Your Museum serves as a special time for students to dress up, spend time with their peers and enjoy the museum.
“I think events like Night at Your Museum, that draw a wide range of students, are important because the museum is an asset that we often take for granted,” Meneghetti said. “It also helps expose people to the museum who wouldn’t normally be interested in coming.”
Krok-Horton also agreed that Night at Your Museum was an important reminder of the asset the museum is to the Smith community. “This event is a great way for students to get connected with their museum in a fun, accessible way. Sometimes students don’t have time to visit the museum, or forget that we have such a beautiful collection. Night at Your Museum is a fun reminder of the hard work that the museum does.”
Sunnie Ying ‘17News Editor
On Feb. 20, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt Daniel Kurtzer delivered a lecture at Smith College. Titled “Choices Facing the United States: Greater Israel or Global Israel,” the former ambassador discussed the commitments, agreements and disagreements in the bilateral relationship, with an emphasis on anticipating shifts faced by this relationship under the new Trump administration.
Daniel Kurtzer served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt during the term of President Bill Clinton and was the U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005, during President George W. Bush's term. According to an interview with Stanford, when asked why he was drawn to the Middle East, he later replied, "The work never seems to be finished in this region. It is not a place where tuxedos and cocktail parties characterize diplomacy."
The lecture was sponsored by the Program in Jewish Studies, the Program in Middle East Studies and the Lewis Global Studies Center. An audience from the Smith community, the other Five Colleges and the local community filled the auditorium in Stoddard Hall.
Professor Justin Cammy from the Jewish Studies department opened the talk by introducing the speaker. “We could not imagine that it [the lecture] would take place in the domestic and geopolitical context we find ourselves in,” he said, highlighting the importance and high possibility of change in the U.S.-Israel relationship.“There are a lot of things on the agenda both in terms of his experience as ambassador, and how it can help us interpret today.”
Kurtzer opened the lecture by admitting that the title is misleading, and speaks as if the United States is in charge of whether Israel will pursue its nationalist aim. Kurtzer then asked the question of whether the U.S. needs Israel as much as Israel needs the U.S., and moved into an analysis of the position of the two leaders, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu.
The former ambassador observed that though Netanyahu’s position has been clear, Trump has adopted a much more ambivalent stance and has given out mixed signals to the U.S. ally on important issues such as settlements and the two-state solution. Kurtzer particularly dissected the press conference co-hosted by Trump and Netanyahu, and suggested that it was more for show than reality.
Krutzer then took the audience deeper into how the bilateral relationship has evolved over time. When it comes down to the core question of their approach to threats and values in foreign relations, Israel seems to be in the same boat as the U.S. Both take a strategic approach to threats, and both are democratic. Israel’s democracy is like an “on-going town hall meeting,” as Kurtzer described. However, the U.S. might be drifting apart from Israel, even in these two key foundations of cooperation. The U.S. considers defeating ISIS to be its central aim in the Middle East, whereas Israel recognizes Iran as a more important threat. Israel is also more willing to resort to the use of force to solve conflicts than the U.S. would feel comfortable. Increasing popularity of ultra-orthodoxy in Israel and the rising ride of antisemitism in the United States may also hurt the relationship of the two countries.
Lastly, the former ambassador took questions from the curious audience, which ranged from the qualities of a successful ambassador to the changing attitudes of the Jewish American community towards Israel.
Hira Humayun ‘17 Editor-In-Chief
On Feb. 23, Smith’s annual Rally Day introduced the 2017 commencement speaker, honorary degree recipients and Rally Day medalists. The event began with the class of 2017, clad in graduation caps and gowns –a tradition that has been part of Rally Day since 1944. Seniors wore their commencement attire in public for the first time, met in the campus center and proceeded to John M. Green Hall.
Matilda Rose Cantwell, the interim director of Religious and Spiritual Life, delivered the opening address to the class of 2017 and alums and explained the history of this longstanding Smith tradition, which dates back to 1894.
The Smith College Glee Club started the event off with their rendition of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” and a procession of faculty and medalists. President Kathleen McCartney then took the stage for some introductory statements before the Student Government Association presented the faculty teaching awards to celebrate the professors that have displayed exceptional teaching and an ability to connect with and impact their students.
The Faculty Teaching Award went to Professors Will Williams and Gary Felder of the physics department, followed by the Elizabeth B. Wyandt Gavel Award for individuals who have contributed significantly to the Smith community. The service staff award went to Talbot House’s Paula Pawloski and the administrative staff award went to L’Tanya Richmond of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
McCartney then presented the Smith Medal to five alums, an ongoing tradition since 1973, meant to commemorate outstanding Smith alums. This year’s medalists included Gloria Steinem ’56, Laura D’Andrea Tyson ’69, Vickie Shannon ’73, Ellen Weiss ’81 and Helen Keplinger ’94.
Writer and activist Steinem spoke about the progress that the women’s movements have made over the years, and how Smith had taught its students to achieve what they wanted, instead of marrying who they wanted to be. She remarked on the progress in terms of women’s roles on intersectional issues, from the civil rights movement of the 1970s, led primarily by men, to the Black Lives Matter movement led by three, young black feminists.
Tyson, an economist, policymaker and former member of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Policy board and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under the Clinton administration, spoke about the confidence that Smith gave her to pursue a career in economics. “Smith women should lead the way,” she stated.
Pulmonary and critical care specialist Shannon spoke about the double glass ceilings she had to break on her path to success, being both a woman and African-American. She emphasized the “need for higher education to focus on women.” One of the first African-American women to attain full professorship at the University of Texas Austin’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, Shannon stated, “there is nothing minor about educating women.”
Journalist Weiss spoke about the confidence Smith gave her to enter into a field she initially did not have much experience in and that was male-dominated. “I’ve learned to expect the very best from women,” she said. She spoke about the need for “creating an increasing role of women in journalism,” and expressed gratitude for the abilities Smith helped her develop.
Winemaker and entrepreneur Keplinger, award winning owner of an artisanal winery, stated how Smith helped her pursue her passion and helped her access “the freedom to find [herself].”She cited her mother as one of her inspirations when it came to pursuing her passion for winemaking.
McCartney then announced the commencement speaker, global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress Oprah Winfrey. Along with Winfrey, the 2017 Honorary Degree recipients were also announced: Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action and former mayor of Northampton; Michelle Kwan, Olympic Medalist and world champion figure skater; Henrietta Mann, founding president of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College, and Erin O’Shea ’88, president of the Howard Hughes Medical institute and Harvard professor.
“My heart just about stopped,” said Maya Bonner ’18, in response to the announcement about the commencement speaker. “I started crying and a friend of mine just laid down on the floor. We went running out of JMG and I called my stepmom yelling, ‘It’s Oprah!’ before hanging up on her. It was glorious.”
“I cant believe that Oprah is coming to campus,” said Becca Damante ’17. “She is a huge icon ad has done so much important work for women of color. I’m so excited!”
Wrapping up the ceremony with some concluding remarks, McCartney invited the graduating class to the campus center to celebrate with food and a chance to meet and speak with the medalists.
“it’s an absolute pleasure to have a woman who has fought and prevailed, and whose success will serve as an inspiration to all in our community,” said Marta Gonzalez ’17.
Tyra Wu '19 Assistant News Editor
Roxane Gay, best-selling author and pundit, spoke on social issues at Mount Holyoke College on Feb. 16 in a public discussion called “Flashpoint!” Gay is the author of several books including “Bad Feminist: Essays”, “An Untamed State” and most recently, “Difficult Women.” Gay opened the discussion by reading excerpts from her books, including pieces inspired by Activia yogurt and gated communities in Florida. For the remainder of her discussion, Gay welcomed questions from the audience, ranging from questions about her work and the Oscar nominations to her opinions on The Bachelorette and competitive Scrabble.
The discussion was held in a relatively small auditorium, allowing for a more informal feel. Gay was more relaxed and straightforward than many speakers are at college discussions. Within the first minute, Gay dropped the f-bomb, setting the tone for the rest of the night. She was honest, snappy and humorous with her responses. One of the topics that came up frequently was the recent presidential election and Trump’s actions. While Gay admitted that she often felt unsure of what to do next in the aftermath of the election, she did advise the audience to remain vigilant about the truth.
“Every time he offers up misinformation, we have to correct him,” Gay said. “When people who follow him parrot his nonsense back, we have to confront them again with truth. Truth is our greatest ally and our greatest weapon right now.”
Furthermore, Gay advised the audience to focus on maintaining productive conversations about social issues rather than focusing on Trump’s ridiculous antics. Gay also noted that throughout the election she was struck by the careless way language was used. One of her takeaways from the election is that we need to be careful and deliberate in the language we use.
“We have to have these difficult conversations about race, gender, sexuality, ability, so many things that are going to get lost in the conversation if we keep focusing on whatever dumb*** thing he did lately,” Gay said.
When asked about fiction’s role in society, Gay said, “All art is one of the main ways in which we hold the government accountable and the way in which we hold each other accountable. It’s a way to bear witness and a way to digest and synthesize things that are going on.”
Ali Meneghetti ’19 felt that the Q&A format allowed Gay to voice her opinions without a filter. She also felt the format made the discussion feel more personal and made her really think about what Gay was talking about.
“I liked that it was very much her own opinion,” Meneghetti said. “It wasn’t her preaching to the choir. Instead it was more like, this is what she thinks. You can make of it what you will.”
Similarly, Zoe Dong ’18 felt that Gay had smart political commentary about current events. During her talk Gay touched on various social issues including race, gender and identity. She also offered advice to the audience about ways to approach these issues in our current political climate.
“I thought Dr. Gay had really important opinions to deliver, but also did it in such a smart and funny way. I thought she had great, relevant political opinions, and a form of feminism and political awareness that is about hard work, fighting for your rights and is inclusive of women of color that I think many white liberal feminists need to hear at this time.”
Sunnie Ning '18 News Editor
Jordan Axani, a social researcher, public speaker and coach, came to speak at Smith College on Feb. 16 in Weinstein Auditorium. Titled “What’s your Big Lie,” the speaker used anonymous technology to allow students to share the masks they are wearing, projecting their submissions in real-time for all to see.
“What’s your Big Lie” was the keynote for the Engaging Identity Series, a campus-wide program running Feb. 9 to April 22 consisting of workshops, identity-themed dinners and a video series. The goal is to engage the entire campus community in discussions that relate to identity empowerment and social justice activism.
Axani is a touring speaker for companies, schools and factories. “I am on a mission to create school cultures that are built on belonging, and I do this by creating safe spaces for incredible honesty and humility among students,” writes Axani on his website.
Axani started the talk by confessing his recent experience in an emotionally abusive relationship in the past three months. After describing his pretense and feelings of hypocrisy, Axani said he realized that most of us spend our lives hiding, that most of us are living a big lie.
Axani then introduced his audience to the first question: “Who are you?” “We are good at saying what we are, but this question is really hard to answer,” he commented as the audience went silent and reflective. He furthered explained that our inner insecurity often leads to lies, and then actions based on these lies.
He demonstrated by sharing another of his story, a story that went viral and captured the world. Growing up in a rural area and bullied throughout childhood, Axani said that self-worth was not a concept he understood. At a young age, he had fantastic achievements, including becoming one of the youngest people to ever cycle across Canada at age 17 for charity. All these, he said, were a cry for help. “I felt this pressure because I didn’t think I was enough.”
His most viral story started after a break-up. Having purchased a ticket in his now ex-girlfriend’s name, Axani posted on Reddit, intending to give away his ticket, when his story went viral. But behind all the attention, when the momentum died down, Axani felt broken inside. “I hate myself more than ever before—and I don’t even know who I’ve become,” he said.
He then proceeded to the interactive part of his talk. Axani invited the audience to anonymously share their answers to several of his questions and projecting them on the screen. Starting with the questions “what is your big lie,” most of the audience members participated, reflecting honestly on their vulnerabilities. The crowd went very silent after seeing the words projected onto the screen. “You just yanked all of us out of the comfort zone,” one of the audience members commented.
After appreciating the honesty and participation of his audience, Axani then proceeded to ask two more questions. He said these anonymous interactions help people realize how many of us suffer a similar pain. “To know that I wasn’t alone, that was the turning point,” he said.
He ended the talk with three truths to share with the audience, “you are not alone,” “but you are a liar,” and “coming clean is your choice.”
Tomomi Chen '20 Contributing Writer
Smith College has been attracting more and more applicants each year. With this being the 10th year in a row of Smith receiving a record number of applications, it seems that women’s colleges are becoming a trend once again. Not only that, but liberal arts colleges may also be increasing in popularity.
This year, there were 5,432 applicants for the Class of 2021, a three percent increase from last year and a 21 percent increase from three years ago.
Within this number, all 50 states and almost 3000 high schools were represented. 200 of these applicants were legacies, while 2,067 applicants were domestic students of color. Furthermore, 544 applied early decision, indicating that Smith is their first choice.
There are most likely many reasons for this increase. Karen Kristof, senior associate director of admissions, commented that, “[one reason for the increase may be because] Smith ... has much good news to share - the new Neilson Library, our successful fundraising efforts and the accomplishments of our alumnae.”
Up to date, 36,853 people have donated to the Women for the World campaign while 166,854 gifts and pledges have been given to the campaign in the past seven years. The campaign was started as a way to raise money to increase access to Smith by increasing financial aid. This campaign was able to raise over $450 million, which may have contributed to more students applying.
As to why women’s colleges are becoming popular, Kristof commented, “I'm not sure why women's colleges have become more popular. Maybe ... word is getting out that these are wonderfully vibrant and diverse communities where you can get an exceptional education.”
Women’s colleges have been praised for allowing women to form into more confident versions of themselves. Many female leaders come from women’s colleges, recent examples including Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem ‘56.
Not only is this increase a trend among domestic students, but there was also an increase in applications from international students. There were 1,408 international applicants this year, a five percent increase from last year.
Kristof indicated that this increase is most likely due to “Admission officers, alumnae, and current students ... talking about Smith all over the world. ...[Another] way to explain the increase is that we also [had] an increase in the countries represented. Last year, international students applied from 97 countries. This year, it's 108 countries.” Smith currently represents students from places such as Ghana, Kuwait, Lebanon, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. As of Oct. 15, 2016, there are 362 international students at Smith.
Furthermore, Kristof continued, “there ... can be a ‘domino effect’ at play. More international applications, more international students and more international alumnae. Back in 2010, we were asked to increase the percentage of international students at Smith. We were aiming for 12 percent and, in fact, have exceeded that. The class of 2020, for example, was 14 percent international students.”
As for how the admissions office feels about the increase in applications?
Kristoff said, “We are thrilled about the increase in applications but more importantly, we are grateful to the entire Smith community for their support. This is a record we ALL can be proud of!”
Sunnie Yi Ning ‘18 News Editor
The Ada Comstock Class Cabinet is running a campaign through February to debunk stereotypes and build bridges between Adas and traditional students at Smith. Titled “Demystifying Adas,” the campaign includes a variety of programing, including social media, swag and panel discussion to help spread their message.
The Ada Comstock Scholars Program is designed for women of nontraditional college age to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree. Named after Ada Louise Comstock, who graduated from Smith College in 1897 and served as dean from 1912 to 1923, the Ada Comstock Program enables women aged 24 and older with varying backgrounds to finish their degrees. “A common denominator for all Ada Comstock Scholars is that they reached a point where they wished to complete their education and fulfill their potential in new and creative ways,” says the Ada Comstock Program website.
The cabinet said that a vision of the campaign came to mind when sharing their mutual challenges in a difficult environment. “‘Demystifying Adas’ is a campaign launched because of many unkind comments heard and circulated about Adas via traditional students,” said Traci Williams ‘AC 18, the Ada Class vice president. “For example, ‘Adas are taking their classes for credit only,’ ‘They’re taking money and resources away from us (traditional students)’ and more recently, ‘Adas are crackheads.’” These comments can be nastier and more hurtful when combined with stereotypes about ethnicity, age, assumed socio-economic status and family structures.
But to picture the Ada community’s interaction with traditional students as negative is far from accurate. Many traditional students are curious to learn about the lives of Adas and develop friendships with them outside of classroom. Maria Wood ‘AC 18, one of the Ada Comstock class presidents, shared how she brought her dog to Pet a Pet Day to build connections with traditional students in that way. “These are points of [social] connections that are out of people’s picture when they think of college life,” she said.
More often, Adas find themselves having to constantly justify their existence on campus such as in the mailroom, at lectures and events. Adas are in every part of the Smith community- student organizations, houses, jobs on campus and student government- yet traditional students and faculty do not seem to be well informed about the program.
Therefore, the campaign aims to crackdown the barriers, build more cohesion and empower the Ada community. “‘Demystifying Adas’ is about dispelling these untruths, demanding recognition for the invaluable Ada contributions to the Smith community and building lasting bridges between Adas and Trads,” said Williams.
So far, the campaign has received support from many parts of Smith College, including the Wurtele Center for Work and Life, the Residence Life Office and the President’s Office.
When asked the questions: “How can traditional students help to improve the campus climate for Adas?” Williams invited traditional students to reflect and listen. “I ask you to ponder how you would help or want to help a ‘marginalized’ community whom some of your closest friends or neighbors were members. I ask traditional students to pause and initiate a dialogue with their Ada classmates.”
Katie Wing ‘AC 18 and Maria Wood ‘AC 18, the Ada class presidents, also emphasized that Smith can do more to inform traditional students of Adas’ existence and their assets to the community. It is important for people to have the awareness, so Adas don’t have the burden of explaining themselves to the rest of the community.
Wing invited Adas to talk about the program and share their stories. She shared some programs throughout February. Ada swag tabling in CC will happen on Feb. 7, 13 and 22, for participants to fill out an index card at the table to show love to Adas or write down any questions you have about the program. Adas can also submit their photos/short bio to be shown at Featured Ada A bulletin board in the CC. Demystifying Adas Panel Lunch, moderated by Mariana Rivera, on Feb. 16 will also give Adas a chance to further discuss their identity as an Ada. Wood and Wing also invited traditional students to reach out to them.
Traditional students and faculty members are also encouraged to participate in these activities to show love to Adas and listen to their stories. “I invite traditional students and faculty to attend the yearly Ada Monologues (happens every springs semester during the Friday and Saturday on Open House & Discovery Weekend) to hear Adas’ stories,” said Williams.
Looking forward, the Ada Cabinet is contemplating on how to take sustainable steps forward and ensure that the campaign has a lasting impact towards changing the attitudes towards the Adas.
Tyra Wu '19 Assistant News Editor
“Undesign the Redline” is a traveling exhibition from the design studio, designing the WE, that displays the history of racial segregation and connects it to current political and social issues. Located on the second floor of the Neilson Library, the project combines graphics, primary documents and photographs to educate the viewer about redlining, a practice that began in 1934 in which people of color and immigrants were shut out of neighborhoods and denied mortgages.
At the time, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation compiled maps of 239 cities indicating the risk of real estate development in that particular area. These maps divided the cities into zones based on investment security. Properties in the green zones were considered safe for real estate investment and properties in red zones, which were populated by mostly African Americans and immigrants, were considered risky. This exhibition has been in pop-up storefronts, abandoned buildings and corporate headquarters.
“What was really great about designing the WE’s project is that it has been hosted by different kinds of organizations that want to talk about how do we solve problems in communities such as building truly affordable and equitable housing or using empty lots to create something that will benefit the community, like urban farms,” exhibit curator and Digital Scholarship librarian Miriam Neptune, said. “When we’re deciding to do those things, we really do need to look at the history to figure out how we got here.”
The exhibit was customized for the Smith community with references to Pioneer Valley history and maps of Boston, Hartford, Holyoke, Chicopee and Springfield. While Neptune had originally asked design the WE to come to Smith just to hold a panel discussion, it soon became clear that a lot of other departments on campus had interest in the topic. There are several events scheduled to accompany the exhibit including a panel on Feb. 16 called Race+Class, Space and Design, featuring the designing the WE partners and professors from UMass and Mount Holyoke. There will also be a zine workshop on Feb. 23 at the Knowledge Lab and a screening of the film “MAJOR!” by Professor Jennifer DeClue on Mar. 9. “Undesign the Redline” is also part of Neilson library’s effort to create communities around specific themes by creating pop-up libraries.
“The pop-up libraries are designed to showcase what we have in the library that helps people understand something in a new way,” Neptune said. “We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to bring the exhibit and create a pop-up library so we can encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue about this topic.”
The exhibit features five different sections, each chronicling a part of redlining’s history and connecting it to current events. The last section is devoted to brainstorming possible solutions moving forward. The exhibit emphasizes audience participation by providing tags that people can use to contribute or comment on the time line. Viewers can contribute to the housing maps by marking where they live or where someone they know once lived. There is also an app that shows people, whose hometowns are not depicted, how their communities might have been affected.
“Designing the WE wants this to be a conversation,” Neptune said. “In the library especially, one of the things I find really important is that we honor the knowledge that people come in with. Someone will come in knowing something in a very personal way and encouraging people to do that with this topic was really important.”
Traci Williams ‘AC ’18 decided to share her personal experience once she realized that she had experienced this firsthand. Williams saved for years in order to purchase her first home in 2003. Many of her neighbors began moving away because they felt the neighborhood had become “too black.”
“I started putting pieces together,” Williams said. “It wasn’t just people being ignorant, stuck in racist ideas. This is actually a practice. Cause you think you can turn people’s hearts and get them to not look at you that way. When you find out that it’s ingrained, it’s standard, that hurts. Because it’s easier to sway someone’s heart than it is to sway an institution.”
The exhibit organizers hope that more students will feel comfortable enough to share their stories as well. These personalized additions to the exhibit underscore the importance of understanding history and connecting it to present day issues. There has been growing interest from outside of the Smith community as well. Neptune is currently looking for students with an interest in the topic, who also have bilingual skills to help broaden the reach of the exhibit. Both Williams and Neptune emphasize that everyone can learn something from the exhibit.
“Those who feel distant, or feel like it’s happening to ‘them’, understand that that ‘them’ is right there,” Williams said. “These are your friends and your classmates.”
Hira Humayun '17 and Katherine Hazen '18 Editor-in-chief and Associate Editor
In a letter to the Smith community on Feb. 7, President McCartney reaffirmed her commitment to protecting undocumented students as well as students from the seven countries affected by the Trump administration’s travel ban. This email came shortly after President Donald Trump issued an executive order that banned immigrants and refugees from Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen and Sudan from entering the U.S. All over the country, international students from those banned countries were not allowed back into the U.S. to continue their education, despite holding valid student visas. Following her Nov. 28 email to the Smith community, McCartney built upon her commitment to protecting students studying under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
Tuesday’s email was followed by an email on Saturday, Feb. 11, reaffirming statements from the week prior, after a raid of deportations occurred across the nation. Dean Julianne Ohotnicky reached out to students identified as undocumented to offer the college’s support, McCartney wrote.
McCartney addressed students and faculty in her letter and aimed to address the concerns, questions and proposals raised in the recent weeks by members of the Smith community, and specifically expressed her gratitude towards the student group Organizing for Undocumented Students’ Rights (OUSR).
The OUSR told The Sophian, “OUSR had a meeting with Laurie Fenlason, Dwight Hamilton, Dean Ohotnicky, Donna Lisker and President McCartney last semester. We followed up twice with Laurie Fenlason to encourage the college to more firmly and fully provide support and security to undocumented students and immigrants. We are pleased with President McCartney’s expanded commitments.” OUSR’s statement went on to say, “That by no means indicates that our advocacy is over and the group is looking forward to working on projects such as scholarship funding, an emergency response team and collaborations with the Five Colleges and the national immigrant advocacy group Cosecha.”
The statement assured that there would be “equal access to institutional need-based financial aid and campus employment” for those under DACA. DACA students will be considered for admission to Smith in the same way as U.S. citizens.
As in her previous email, McCartney affirmed that the college will not take any voluntary action that would put the immigration or citizenship status of a community member at risk. In maintaining this policy, the email stated that Smith will not release information regarding a student’s citizenship or immigration status “unless legally compelled to do so,” and that if faced with a “subpoena or other imperative,” the college will seek legal counsel prior to complying with the order.
McCartney’s letter stated other campus measures, such as advising Campus Police to leave the enforcement of federal immigration laws to federal officials. The college will continue with its practice of “strictly limiting the use of eVerify,” an online system that compares information from one’s Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9 form), to Department of Homeland Security records, to verify employment authorization in the U.S. This applies to federal research contracts that offer valuable research opportunities for students and faculty, but those joining research projects will be counseled regarding the risks of eVerify, so that they can make informed decisions regarding their participation. However, this will not apply to work-study employment and other routine matters, for which eVerify will not be used.
Specifically in response to the more recent travel ban for those from the seven countries, the college will help the affected international students obtain legal counsel –as it will do for undocumented students- and financial support for immigration application fees. The statement also encouraged affected Smith employees to utilize Human Resources, the Provost’s Office, the Employee Assistance program and the Office of International Students and Scholars.
Smith will assist international students in gaining year-round housing on campus or through alumnae if international students are unable to travel back home due to the ban. McCartney reiterated the college’s commitment to supporting undocumented students by strengthening the capacities of campus resources like counseling services and Innovation Challenge grants. These grants fund projects like the identity support initiative in the Wellness Office, and the School for Social Work’s refugee–specific training for clinicians.
McCartney concluded the letter by sharing the collective actions she has joined in support of international and undocumented students. She has signed the American Council on Education (ACE) letter to the secretary of Homeland Security, which objects the travel ban, and petitions against the ban and in support of women’s issues in the U.S.
“Such actions are both symbolic and substantive;” she wrote. “I have been heartened to see the effect of citizens’ and organizations’ public actions in rolling back proposals and actions antithetical to our values as a scholarly community.”
“I am glad that the Office of International Students invited an immigration attorney to explain to us the consequences of Trump’s executive order and to give us advice. That was very helpful because the media was giving confusing information,” said Ghida El-Banna ‘17, an international student. “In terms of McCartney, I am very disappointed by her response...she avoided explicitly saying that the ban targets Muslim majority countries...This bothered me a lot because she did not specifically mention Trump’s discriminatory orders against Muslims, particularly how he described Muslims as terrorists.”
El-Banna went on to say, “This is not surprising though because our administration always shies away from admitting that Muslim students struggle or feel targeted or that Islamophobia exists in the first place. I would also have appreciated if she mentioned how Muslims contribute to Smith as students, faculty and staff. Other schools did in their emails.”
Last week, the Sophian published a story on Hopkins House becoming a possible POC housing option. The article mentioned that Hopkins residents review applications for housing independently; however, since publication, The Sophian had been contacted by sources within Hopkins house, who clarified that Residence Life does in fact review applications and decide who is eligible for vacant positions in the house. Moreover, Hopkins house has been working with Residence Life throughout the year to negotiate the transition to becoming a POC housing option. Whether those vacancies are filled by students of color is contingent upon there being enough eligible applications from students of color.
Below is a statement from Dean Julianne Ohotnicky:
During the 2016-2017 academic year Residence Life has been reviewing theme housing at Smith and how it might be engaged differently to support all students at Smith, in particular our students of color and our students committed to social justice. During a recent meeting with students from Hopkins House, we discussed the role Hopkins House might play in this conversation. I shared with the students that substantial changes to the housing system would need to be vetted by Donna Lisker, Dean of the College, and possibly other senior leadership.
Smith does offer a variety of theme housing, including cooperative living, substance-free living and French-speaking community. Housing selection for each of our theme houses begins with an application process. Specifically, students are selected into theme housing via the following process: annually students complete an application for admittance, a committee of staff and students meet to review applications and determine readiness for theme house living. Students are selected from the applicants and then offered a lottery number for room selection. Last year, in an effort to diversify the Hopkins House community, priority was given to students of color. The goal was not an affinity space, but one that more accurately reflected the demographics of the Smith community.
This year, we agreed that we would use the same model and develop a proposal for Dean Lisker and senior leadership about an alternative theme housing model. That work is in process as we consider the needs our residential students, themes that would be appropriate to our campus and the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII) and recognition that it it is unlawful in the commonwealth of Massachusetts to limit housing options based on race.
Regarding students who are living in challenging roommate situations, we use a mediation process offered by trained residence life staff that is framed with a social justice lens. Students who wish to move, following working with their residence life staff, will then connect with our Assistant Director of Residence Life who shares with them the housing options that are available. Once the student identifies a new living space they are moved. We do have challenges with the availability of singles and meeting the specific needs of students who want to move but remain in their current house (which may not have availability), so sometimes there is a wait. Housing changes are generally made on a first-come, first-serve basis unless there is an emergent situation.
Below is the corrected version of the original article.
Liz Curran-Groome ‘18 Staff Writer
The residents of Hopkins house have been working with Residence Life to create a housing community on campus for students of color. Residence Life has been reviewing theme housing over the course of this academic year and Hopkins House hopes to utilize the opportunity to create this option for students of color. There are various other theme housing options such as the Tenney House cooperative, substance-free housing and the French housing community.
A longstanding demand for housing options exclusively for students of color has existed at Smith due to incidents in houses that included the posting of explicitly racist and threatening notes on the doors of students of color in 1989. Students of color were being made to feel unsafe in their homes and, as racism persists, this has by no means ended. Students who report emergency situations with regards to their housing may be fast-tracked for a room change while situations not deemed emergent are handled on a first-come-first-served basis.
Beyond facing racism within the confines of their room, students of color can be made to feel isolated in house communities with leadership and in-groups that are often whitewashed despite there being numerous students of color in the house.
Home to 18 occupants who grocery-shop, clean, and live together according to consensus-based community standards, Hopkins House hopes to be able to facilitate the creation of a housing option for students of color. However, the transition to being a POC housing option is contingent on having enough eligible students of color apply to fill the vacancies. If there are not enough eligible applicants of color, the vacancies will be filled by other applicants.
Liz Curran-Groome ‘18 Staff Writer
After decades of student requests and decades of Residence Life and the Smith administration neglecting to fulfill those requests, the residents of Hopkins house have decided to take matters into their own hands and create a housing option exclusively for students of color. Hopkins, one of Smith’s two food cooperative houses, only accommodates 18 students, but residents will give these spots to students of color in hopes of constructing a housing option that prioritizes safety and community building.
Demands for a housing option exclusively for students of color date back to the 80’s, when multiple incidents of intolerance occurred throughout various campus houses, including the posting of explicitly racist and threatening notes on the doors of students of color. Students were being made to feel unsafe then, and that has by no means ended for many students of color.
To this day, first years who are placed with roommates they do not know, who report that their roommate is racist, making them feel unsafe and alienated in their own room, still have to wait months for a new room assignment. Outside of their room, these same students are often made to feel isolated from house communities composed of leadership and in-groups that are often whitewashed, despite there being numerous students of color in the house.
Hopkins House is distinct as a food cooperative because it means that the house community is responsible for choosing its own members. This process facilitates the creation of a cohesive and accountable community, since residents are responsible for coordinating all of the house’s meals and shopping and cleaning for themselves. Current residents have the responsibility of reviewing the special-interest housing applications submitted by students hoping to live in the house the next year, and choose those who they believe will be a good fit. This autonomy allows them to facilitate the transition to being a housing option for students of color, without the oversight of the Department of Residential Life.
The transition may take a few years, but the end result will be a housing option exclusively for people of color on campus. This sends a clear message to Residence Life that students will utilize all of the power afforded to us to make Smith a place where every student can feel safe within their own house community.
The deadline to apply for special-interest housing is February 10. Applications can be submitted through the Residence Life Self-Service website, found on the Smith Portal homepage.