Do we really have to have another debate on whether to ban the AR-15?

 Photo Courtesy of || Children are at greater risks when authorties are in possession of guns.

Photo Courtesy of || Children are at greater risks when authorties are in possession of guns.

Emily Kowalik ’18
Opinions Editor

Army veteran, Mark Cowan, aimed his AR-15 gun at Northside High in Fort Wayne, Indiana on Monday.

Cowan, a member of Oath Keepers, “found a spot off of school grounds, but close enough to keep an eye on people going in and out of the high school.”

He has talked to police and the high school’s resource officer and plans to stand guard until the school adopts “additional safety measures.” He suggested that his Oath Keepers group might guard additional area schools in the future.

I am familiar with Northside High. I used to travel there for team meets and I can tell you I am concerned more about the safety of the Ft. Wayne students because of Cowan’s presence.

The Fort Wayne Community School superintendent apparently agrees and said, “we understand he has a right to be there, but we do not believe it adds to the safety of our students.”

An AR-15 was used in the Parkland school massacre; it was also used in the Sutherland Springs mass church shooting, the Las Vegas mass shooting, the San Bernardino mass shooting and the Sandy Hook school massacre.

Americans own more than 8 million AR-15s. And they own another seven million other types of semi-automatic rifles.

There are growing calls from Democrats for an assault weapons ban.

However, President Trump, who supported a ban on assault weapons before his GOP nomination, does not currently support an assault weapons ban.

Trump, calling the Florida shooter a “sicko,” said that the country should instead concentrate measures to ensure that those with mental health issues cannot obtain guns.

The NRA says it’s utterly unrealistic to ban AR-15s. The 1994 assault weapons ban did not impact semi-automatic rifles – which would necessarily involve the repeal of the Second Amendment.

Gun lobbyists are pushing legislation to promote the arming of teachers. This would allow civilians to carry guns into our elementary, middle and high schools.

Teachers are not trained law enforcement officers.

These bills are sold as a way to keep children safe. However, in reality they do just the opposite, putting children at risk of unintentional harm.

Further, the NRA’s claim that “gun-free zones” invite mass shootings has been thoroughly debunked. 90 percent of all gun massacres since 1966 have occurred in locations where civilian guns were allowed or where armed security or law enforcement was present.

The AR-15 is a semi-automatic version of the fully automatic M16 rifle used by the U.S. military and is identical in appearance to the military weapon.

It can shoot more bullets and cause much more damage to human tissue than a regular handgun.  

The AR-15 magazine can hold 30 bullets and this number can be significantly bumped up by adding high-capacity magazines. It can also be easily modified to shoot continuously.

The AR-15 is not for hunting, it’s for killing. It’s time to end this lunacy and bring back an assault weapons ban.



Getting A’s are bad for your work ethic

Getting A’s are bad for your work ethic

As much as Smith students like to say, “C’s get degrees” and “Done is better than good,” we still have an enormous stress problem on campus. Students stay up later, and wake up earlier than they should, cut class to finish assignments, pass on job opportunities and internships to have more time for their classes, all in search of a perfect 4.0.

Thoughts and prayers won’t stop bullets

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attack, in Florida, left 17 students and staff members dead and is the deadliest school shooting since 2012. Student survivors from the attack,  the most recent school shooting, have announced a national “March for Our Lives” on Washington to demand political action on gun control. Theirs is just one of many student-led groups calling for protests and working to amass support on social media in the wake of the recent attack.

Who to Watch at the Olympics: Figure Skaters and More

Who to Watch at the Olympics: Figure Skaters and More

It’s finally time for the Winter Olympics, which will kick off in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 9. Team USA is sending the largest contingent of athletes to the Games, 242 in total, who will participate in all fifteen sports. As a busy Smithie does not have the time to watch all the events, I would suggest tuning in for figure skating. It is the perfect combination of theater, physicality and grace, not to mention mental fortitude and beautiful costumes. These are a few skaters whose stories (and social media) have captured my attention in the season leading up to the Olympics:

So, what’s the verdict on Aziz Ansari and consent?

Zoya Azhar ’20

With the recent string of sexual misconduct allegations surfacing left, right and center, and victims feeling confident that their stories will not go unheard, the story of “Grace” and how Aziz Ansari mistreated her should not have come as a surprise to me.

And yet it did. I found myself hyper-aware of how this story unfolded simply because of the Muslim roots that Ansari and I share. I would have been equally interested had it been Riz Ahmed or Kumail Nanjiani or Hasan Minhaj in the spotlight. They’re brown and come from Muslim families, and sometimes I feel I have a vested interest in these people being present in Hollywood. In Nanjiani’s case, he is literally from my high school in Karachi.

I wanted to know exactly how Ansari had messed up. And because of its viral nature, The New York Times’ opinion piece is what I read first. It was misleading to the point where I was almost convinced something was fishy. That was until I read the account on Based on the information we have, Ansari is in the wrong.

Why are there so many opinion pieces floating around, then? Why do feminists suddenly have to defend the #MeToo movement from comparisons to McCarthyism?

Most of the opinion pieces that followed this allegation debate the grey areas of consent, how consent is defined and how one practices consent. The debate, therefore, is how to decide which sexual misconduct allegations to take seriously, when there isn’t a scientific definition of consent.

The safe definition is that consent looks slightly different for each set of partners, with the glaring, across-the-board exception that there should be a “YES” in there somewhere.

But when non-verbal cues and the influence of power dynamics shaped by a patriarchy – that affects all of us – come into play, most people in the Grace-Ansari debate wanted to take the easy route and dismiss the whole matter; if there isn’t a formula to judge sexual assault by, it’s technically not sexual assault. It’s a bad date.

This sounds lazy and wrong.

But how does one decide? The obvious answer is to hold the accused up against the legal definition of consent and take the victim’s story into account.

Why are there still two opinions about the Grace-Ansari story then? It is probably because some people call their bad dates sexual misconduct encounters and others (more worryingly) call their sexual misconduct encounters bad dates.

Maybe down the line, when we have a more egalitarian society, the former problem could surface as the bigger concern. But for now, anyone who mistakes a bad thing happening to them for a bad date, deserves to realize otherwise.


  In our last issue last semester, our front-page story recounted the allegations of severe mishandling of a case of sexual violence at Smith College, put forth in a public document by Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) on behalf of an anonymous victim. The document containing these allegations had been circulating for several weeks before our Dec. 7 coverage, and Campus Police even acknowledged its existence on Oct. 25 in an announcement on Grécourt Gate.

  On the day after our last issue, Dean Katherine Rowe and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Howard sent a campus-wide email correcting our coverage, pointing only to the campus police log as justification. However, in our story, we had referenced the campus police log, which the victim via SASA in a Letter to the Editor maintains is incorrect.

  We have not and will not correct or retract our story. In sending the email, the administration seemed concerned with ensuring victims continue to report despite the allegations, but considering the story, what happens to our fellow students after filing that report that does not seem to be of much concern.

  Where Title IX rights are concerned on the national stage, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has stripped victims of Obama-era protections. For a school that prides itself on a history and curriculum devoted to social justice, we expect Smith administration to at the very least fulfill the role our government has abdicated itself of.

  The SASA document details a large violation of Title IX rights. We urge Smith College to take practicable, affirmative steps to do better on sexual violence. The Sophian stands with SASA and all victims and survivors on campus.  

Trumped Again: Equal Pay Data Rule Stalled

Emily Kowalik ’18

The #MeToo and Time's Up movements have spurred momentum in efforts to have industries disclose details about workforce diversity – data that shows the progress (or lack thereof) for women and minorities in the workplace.

Feminist author Gloria Feldt said in Time that many employers were being forced to make changes in response to #MeToo, like examining gender-based pay differences.

However, the current Trump administration is sabotaging our efforts towards workplace equality.

President Trump has engaged in a blitz attack on regulations, axing rules that were intended to ensure safe workplaces and fair pay; 67 deregulatory actions were made during fiscal year 2017, and a total of 1,579 regulations withdrawn or delayed.

Pay equity is one area where we are in danger of losing our momentum, and it’s time to resist.

Since the 1960s, American companies with more than 100 employees have had to complete an annual census, the EEO-1, a federal form that tallies employees by race and gender across all job categories.

Though not required to make company data public, many companies have released detailed summaries in response to shareholder activists, who have pushed for public disclosure of EEO-1 information.

For example, JPMorgan said women accounted for 24.7 percent of its top ranks in 2016, versus 25.8 percent in 2015. The information guides investors, who believe that a diverse workforce yields better business outcomes, evaluating companies on social criteria.

The Obama administration asked that salary data also be reported, via the EEO-1 pay data collection rule. This pay equity form was intended to identify pay disparities in America’s workplaces and thereby help remedy gender, racial and ethnic pay inequities.

Former EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang said the collecting of this data “is a significant step forward in addressing discriminatory pay practices. This information will assist employers in evaluating their pay practices to prevent pay discrimination and strengthen enforcement of our federal anti-discrimination laws.”  

Many HR specialists had already changed their data collection practices in anticipation of this new rule.

But the Trump administration put the EEO-1 pay data collection rule on hold, making it harder to identify pay disparities and root out employment discrimination. Further, this decision (to save corporations “needless” paperwork, most of which were already done) ignores what the research shows – inequities have gotten worse, not better.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, among workers with the same level of education and work experience, black–white wage gaps are larger today than nearly 40 years ago, and gender pay disparities have remained essentially unchanged for at least 15 years.  

In both cases, discrimination has been shown to be a major factor in the persistence of those gaps.

As the Economic Policy Institute notes, the Trump administration is making it harder for the public, employers and federal agencies to identify pay disparities and root out employment discrimination.

Halting the equal pay data rule will make it more difficult for working people to know when they are being discriminated against. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have spent an enormous amount of time painting regulations as a “problem.”

It is time to end this deception and return to defending the rules that protect us and promote pay equity.

Letter to the Editor

The Program for the Study of Women and Gender and the Engineering Department will be presenting “Only 3% Are Women?! A Forum on Diversifying the Construction Workforce” on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium. As of 2017, only 3 percent of the construction labor force in the United States is made up of women. There is much work to be done in terms of diversifying this field, and Smith has a large role to play in this movement as we undergo the massive Neilson Library construction project.

During this forum, students will have the chance to meet some of the tradeswomen working on the Neilson Library construction project. These women are locally-based construction workers and will speak to their experience organizing for the inclusion of women and people of color in construction projects, as well as access to adequate training, livable wages and fair benefits.

Students will also be encouraged to engage in discussion regarding Smith’s role in the diversification of this field during the Neilson construction project. Afterward, speakers will address institutional policies regarding equitable working conditions during future campus construction projects. This forum will be a great way for students to learn how our institution can benefit the lives of tradeswomen within the broader community.


Letter to the Editor

After going to MacLeish Field Station for soil samples and leaf litter data, I became interested in learning more about the plant species that live at MacLeish. It turns out that there are three invasive plants threatens other plant species. Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). This plant is present in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, with Maine being the only state in which the plant is not invasive. The Celastrus orbiculatus is a vine which can adapt to both intense sun and shade. What makes it invasive is its ability to cut through trees, specifically tree branches.

The multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) is another invasive species present at MacLeish Field Station. The rose is a thorny shrub with leaflets. It is able to replace any existing vegetation in the area that it inhabits, and produces over 500,000 seeds per year! The third invasive species is a barberry (Berberis thunbergii), which is a small deciduous shrub, that is spread through birds. Barberries are invasive in that they compete with native trees of the habitat they invade.

All three of these plants indicate that there needs to be some way to control the spread of invasive plants at MacLeish, especially if we want to ensure the maintenance of that ecosystem. Many people visit MacLeish for various reasons, which means that we need to be extra careful when it comes to causing disruptions to habitats, or even the spread of invasive plants to other parts of the forest.

Chaimaa Riad '20

Letter to the Editor

I want to start this by stating that I do not identify myself as Jewish. However, I strongly care about people who do, and I do not accept intolerance or discrimination of any type regardless of my connection to it.On Dec. 7, we spent the majority of class discussing the impacts of the impending visit of Valerie Plame Wilson. Before class, I was only somewhat familiar with her work and was unaware of her recent ignorance and degradation towards the American Jewish population. Her behavior in publicly sharing an explicitly anti-Semitic article entitled "America's Jews Are Driving America's Wars,” is unacceptable and inexcusable even with her insufficient attempts at making an apology. During class, we spent over an hour commenting on, debating and supporting each other in reference to this topic and her actions.

I was very impressed with the overall quantity and quality of the content of the discussion. In my following class, the same topic was raised. However, the response to it was staggeringly different. We spent less than twenty minutes on the topic with less of a third of the class participating. In each class, I raised a comment referencing the overall ignorance and disregard for the existence of anti-Semitism in the United States. With this comment, I used the current case of Al Franken, a Democrat who recently announced his resignation from Congress after several accusations of sexual misconduct and assault. I questioned whether the same response from students and faculty would be seen if the actions taken by the visitor involved sexual assault or racism. I feel as though my question was answered not through verbal communication but by the actions taken by the students in both of my classes.

One of the things that struck out to me when differentiating between my experiences in each class was that in my first class, several participants identified as being part of the Smith College Jewish Community. While those students were not the only ones participating, their presence and clearly voiced thoughts and opinions helped rouse the actions of the rest of the class. People were able to voice their views as well as gain insight. In my following class, it appeared that no one identified as being Jewish and the conversation lacked the reverence I had seen previously. While my intention is not to shame anyone for not speaking out, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of actions taken. With this letter I am not attempting to tell anyone who is right or wrong. I am just expressing my admiration of the content and passion that was provided by students during the class discussion.

After attending the forum referenced above, I would once again like to express my admiration for the in-class discussion I was able to witness. To say that I was disappointed by my experience at the forum would be disrespectful to the students, especially the students of the Smith College Jewish Community, as their passion, knowledge and commitment to a world existing beyond anti-Semitism, white supremacy and overall bigotry shone through with their actions and questions. However, the response I saw to these questions was where I found my disappointment. It is not uncommon that when a person in power is confronted with a controversial topic, they will do their best to avoid it, re-word the topic into something that shows themselves in a positive light or just simply answer a different question than the one that was asked. Unfortunately, I witnessed all three of these things at the panel. During the panel, many attempts at apologies were made with anti-Semitic actions being brushed off as nothing more that a “mistake.” This kind of behavior is unacceptable. While mistakes do happen, they do not involve acts of violence and verbal abuse.

Several times during the panel, there was discussion of the need to dispel of anti-Semitism all together and that doing this would be a long and arduous process. However, not a single panelist stepped up and took responsibility for helping in this process. To make it clear, I was not expecting the solution to global hatred to be solved in a two-hour panel but commitment to actively participating in aiding in developing solutions would have been nice. Overall, the experience was both uplifting and distressing. Seeing a panel of academics attempt to quell and crush student’s attempts to stand up for themselves and defend who they are and what they believe in was nauseating. I left the auditorium feeling sick to my stomach. However, I also left with an unmeasurable amount of respect for my peers for their perseverance. In spite of the disgusting attempts to silence voices, I witnessed fellow students remaining rational and level headed as they took on a panel, that was obviously not going to respect a word they said, with well thought out, well-worded and remarkably intelligent questions. With all of this in mind, the faith I have in my generation, the generation that is poised to take responsibility for the future, has been reinvigorated as I witnessed first hand, its dedication to creating a world where hatred and bigotry is demolished with indisputable support.


Georgianna Duke, 2020J

Letter to the Editor

Students Against Sexual Assault sent the following statement to The Sophian following Dean Rowe’s email this afternoon.

SASA stands by the statement that we made. The reforms requested in our demands are necessary for the safety of students at Smith College. The student who made the call to campus police maintains that the incident was misreported in their logs and did in fact pose a serious and ongoing threat to the student body. The version of events that was reported to campus police is very different than the version which they publicly logged. This student chose to use the word "accost" to describe the situation and does not feel comfortable elaborating on the details of a traumatic incident that happened to them in such a public capacity. It would be unfair and insensitive to ask them to do so. That being said, it took great courage for the student to say anything to begin with, and Dean Rowe's decision to address The Sophian's article, while maintaining the misreported version of events, and the administration’s failure to address any of SASA's actual demands, which would be necessary no matter what, are indicative of administrative apathy and refusal to listen to survivors. The emphasis that the Smith community is putting on this individual student's experience, and their disregard for the need for institutional change that this event revealed, is dangerous. We urge Smith College to do better.

Letter to the Editor

To the Smith College Community:

I am sincerely honored to be invited to speak to you next week at a panel on social media and foreign policy as well as a colloquium on the nuclear threat issue, and I look forward to a thoughtful discussion.

I would like to respond to the recent letter in The Sophianpublished on Dec. 8 2017, and to the entire Smith Community, with an apology and a clarification.

I deeply apologize for having mindlessly retweeted what I didn’t know at the time was a blatantly anti-Semitic article.  I had not read it and made a terrible mistake in disseminating something I do not for one second agree with in the least. It is a complete, total, 100 percent variance from what I truly believe. I am appalled at the offensiveness of it.

Please know this: I made a profound mistake by retweeting before reading the piece and then compounded that mistake by defending it (still without having read it).  

 It is probably the biggest regret I have in my life. I learned many things from the episode, not least the power of social media, and it is something I will never do again.  It has been an intensely humbling experience.

Again, though there is no defense for such foolishness, I can promise you that the article has nothing to do with my views or belief system. I have a well-established history of supporting religious diversity and freedom in this country. I apologize to the Smith community and the Jewish community, and I look forward to doing so in person and setting the record straight.


Valerie Plame

Letter to the Smith Community

To our friends, professors, classmates and allies: 


The Kahn Liberal Arts Institute invited former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson to speak on a panel entitled “Social Media and US Foreign Policy” this coming Monday. The Kahn Institute invited Plame Wilson to speak in early September, as a part of their yearlong lecture series on war. 

In September, Plame Wilson retweeted an article entitled “American Jews are Driving America’s Wars.” The article by ex-CIA columnist Philip Giraldi employs some of the oldest expressions of anti-Semitism, namely conspiracy. This anti-Semitic trope works by spreading the myth that Jews control the world and are secretly scheming behind every instance of corruption. 

Throughout history, Jews have been positioned in a social hierarchy that has served to deflect anger and hate from the state. The article accuses American Jews of infiltrating politics, controlling the media and questions the ability for Jews to be loyal to America. 

The article proposes the removal of Jews from Middle-East foreign policy positions in order to deal with “the dominant involvement of American Jews in foreign policy.”  Additionally, Giraldi proposes that Jewish television commentators  should be labeled as Jews on the screen “like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison.”

These are the views that Plame Wilson chose to share with her fifty thousand twitter followers. Plame Wilson doubled down after initial pushback and encouraged her followers to “read the entire article and try, just for a moment, to put aside your biases and think clearly.” She also deflected accusations of anti-Semitism by cynically weaponizing the fact that she had a Jewish ancestor. 

Only after continuous pushback did Plame Wilson apologize, saying she had skimmed the piece and “missed the gross undercurrents,” which were “problematic AF.” Following her apology, Plame Wilson reached out to the Kahn Institute, saying she would understand completely if they wanted to cancel her lecture. 

Instead of canceling, in light of the anti-Semitic myths Plame Wilson perpetuated on social media, the Kahn Institute decided to change her platform to a panel focused on social media and foreign policy. 

We as the Smith College Jewish Community Board wholeheartedly condemn Plame Wilson. We are deeply troubled by the Kahn Institute and the College’s ability to reconcile anti-Semitism with any withstanding attributes. The history of the present moment requires clear and public condemnation and recognition of anti-Semitism, which in the case of Plame Wilson’s invitation, has not happened. 

While known anti-Semites are being appointed to governmental positions of power and fascists parade as the alt-right resurface nazi slogans in the name of nationalism, it is painfully apparent that anti-Semitism must be stopped. 

However, before it can be stopped, it must be understood. Anti-Semitism does not exist in a vacuum, but rather is connected to every other system of oppression. Blatant anti-Semitism relies on the ever constant current of mistrust and hatred of Jews. 

The current US administration exemplifies this: the flares of obvious anti-Semitism (read: condoning alt-Right groups is one of many examples) relies on the constant condemnation of the media, which works in tandem with anti-Semitic conspiracy.

We must work to end obvious and inconspicuous hate. As white supremacy requires anti-semitism to exist, standing against anti-Semitism serves to undercut the very basis of white supremacy. 

Welcoming an anti-Semite to campus disgusts and disappoints.  It is unfortunate that it took a visit from someone who spread anti-Semitic propaganda to over 50,000 viewers for this conversation to surface. We hope that you, the Smith Community, consider the following questions: 

Why is the response to an anti-Semite speaking on campus silence? How can we be more cognizant of anti-Semitic rhetoric in our daily lives? How does anti-Semitism fit into systems of oppression at large? 

Some of us will be organizing a response at the event. We invite you to join us there, wear black, don’t clap, come with a critical voice and hard questions, and make it clear that we do not cede an inch of ideological ground to anti- Semitism. Some of us will be holding space in the Kosher Kitchen, on the Paradise Road side of Jordan House, before, during and after her talk on Monday for anyone who needs the space to decompress.



Smith College Jewish Community

Letter to the Editor

Dear Smith Community, 


Tenney House is severely disturbed by the horrible comments made about our Ada Comstock neighbors on social media. This past weekend, several internet strangers posted on Facebook and the Smith Confessional in response to Ada Comstock Scholars’ posts and comments on Facebook. Many of these responses not only attacked Adas personally and generally but were inherently racist, ageist, classist, and ableist. 

Anonymous commenters used social media to isolate a group of people already excluded from the larger Smith community. These cowardly and shameful words are not just sleazy comments, they hurt people. Which is why members of Tenney House, in conversation with some Adas, have committed to responding to these comments. They are not tolerated in our home and will not be tolerated on our campus. 

The role our house played in the events that sparked Facebook comments is being worked through laterally between Tenney House members and Ada residents in 150 Elm. We are working to build a stronger relationship on our corner of Elm Street. 

Through internet escalations and empty opinions, folks that have nothing to do with what’s being discussed do harm by belittling the conflicts. Aggressive comments like those posted on the Confessional undermine attempts to work through issues between people in the community. Calling people in and calling people out is real work; 150 Elm did their part in calling Tenney House in, and now we want to call the Smith community in. 

It is an underchallenged reality that a deep divide exists between Ada Comstock Scholars and traditional students. Tenney House is committed to changing this reality. We already know the ways to do this: we must foster transparent networks through which to communicate, and protect and support one another. By learning from what happened, we are trying to demonstrate the ways we can build community with all of our neighbors. We invite you to do the same.



The members of Tenney House