Sunnie Yi Ning ‘18
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.