A Smithie’s Response to the SGA’s Autism Awareness Email

Ellie Macqueen ’18

Contributing Writer

On April 9, the Student Government Association (SGA) sent out an email regarding autism acceptance month, bringing attention to the importance of supporting autistic students at Smith. The idea behind supporting these students is essential, and the email reinforces the point that neurodiversity is real and has something to offer us as people and thinkers, and thusshould be “supported” at Smith.

The email, however, goes too far in condemning Autism Speaks and its goals. The organization’s mission is to support families with autistic members and fund scientific research on autism. Some of this research looks into removing autism on the genetic level. The email calls this “eugenics.” “Eugenics,” as the email defines it, is the “forced sterilization, eradication, murder and dehumanization of people who are considered ‘undesirable.’”

This aggressive — and inaccurate —definition of genetic modification serves to vilify those who disagree with the email’s assertions about Light It Up Blue and genetic modification as a practice.  The use of this term is powerful rhetoric. Fairer terms include “genetic modification,” “genetic engineering” and “genetic selection.” These terms allow students to consider genetic alteration without feeling like the founder of Huxley’s World State. These terms allow students to come to their own conclusion.

While the email encourages the Smith student body to “support” those of different minds, the email actively condemns and misrepresents those of different opinions. If the SGA is asking us to respect different minds, it should also ask us to respect different opinions. Their email does not do this. Instead, it goes further, claiming to speak for the whole student body.

The aggressiveness of the email would be okay if it were just sent by the Disability Alliance. The Disability Alliance, as a club, may have a different opinion than my own. The Smith Israel Alliance is allowed to passionately disagree with Smith Students for Justice in Palestine, for instance (whether they do I am not sure; these are just examples). However, the SGA Social Justice Committee sent this email. The SGA is meant to reflect the majority opinion of the student body.

This email is not a reflection of the majority opinion. I have not discussed the issue of Light It Up Blue with any Smithies, nor have any of my friends. I did not receive an email from my senator about this issue on campus before the email was sent, and I did not fill out a poll. With this email, the condemnation of Autism Speaks suddenly became an opinion Smith students have, an opinion I have. This is not true. The SGA Social Justice Committee didn’t even bother to ask our senators.

The SGA email asks us to “support” those with different minds; to be open and accepting while at the same time actively vilifying those who disagree with the email. Furthermore, the SGA is meant to represent the student body, yet it carelessly issued this email without the input of the student body. The next time the SGA takes a stand against an entire organization on behalf of the student body, it should reflect the opinion of the student body. And, most importantly, it should not vilify those who do not agree.

Comments are closed.