Smith Students Speak With Board of Trustees About Campus Issues

Katherine Hazen '18

Staff Writer

Board of Trustees members sat down with students to discuss campus issues in an informal setting last Thursday, Feb. 5 in the Neilson Browsing Room. The event, hosted by the Student Government Association Cabinet, consisted of small groups organized by topics.  Each table discussed a different topic that had been raised in the campus-wide survey in February with a Board member. The topics choosen were access at Smith, dis/ability access, diversity and inclusion, financial support, mental health, sustainability, trans admission policy and undocumented student admission. At each table members of the SGA cabinet facilitated the conversations and took notes for the record.

President Greta Stacy ’15 was satisfied with the outcome of the event, which she considers the result of the SGA’s dedication.

“I think how well the conversations went [Thursday] night is a testament to how eager the board is to meet with students, and that Smith students are ready to engage in tough conversations,” Stacy said.

The event ran a half hour over the estimated time, and both board members and students said they benefited from hearing and listening to each other.  At tables with more contentious topics, such as the trans admission policy and undocumented student admission, there appeared to be a disconnect between the students’ pleas and the board’s duties and power.

Board Member Barbara Massey ’63 listened to students at the undocumented student admission table, and she described the difference of her experience of diversity at Smith. A recurring concern among students was that Smith is not operating transparently, especially as to how the money in the endowment is spent.

“I’m receiving a real education,” stated Massey during the conversation.

At several points in the conversation on, students felt Massey failed to understand the gap between the education and privileges some international students receive in comparison with those of undocumented students who are placed in the same highly competitive applicant pool.  Massey argued that the budget would have to change in order to admit more students in this position and to provide services for when those students enroll.

Badriyyah Alsabah ’17 explained that undocumented students are already on Smith campus and the services are already in place, but these services should be diversified to reflect more students’ experiences.

“Faith should be placed in the fact that we, as students, are going to seek help, and help will not be placed on us,” Alsabah said.

Board of Trustees members admitted their uncertainty about these issues and explained their inability to proceed in an efficient manner.  Board Member Neelum Amin ’86 sat at the trans* admission policy table and communicated her frustration with the speed of these decisions, but she explained her hesitance in releasing a policy that will not stand in practice.   

“My decision has to be realistic of the society we live in now – which is why meeting with you guys is so important,” Amin said. “My job is to look toward the future and make a decision that does not have holes in it.”