President McCartney Announces Plans to ‘Invest in Inclusion’

Photo by Carolyn Brown '16 | In response to students protesting on-campus racism, President McCartney held a town hall meeting on Nov. 23.

Photo by Carolyn Brown ’16 | In response to students protesting on-campus racism, President McCartney held a town hall meeting on Nov. 23.

Katherine Hazen ’18
News Editor

Rachel Farber ’16
Assistant News Editor

Last week, President Kathleen McCartney and Chief Diversity Officer Dwight Hamilton sent an email to students, staff and faculty regarding inclusion at Smith in light of last semester’s student efforts to examine racism at Smith. The email outlined both short- and long-term actions that certain offices on campus will take.

The short-term plans consists of efforts to expand offices that are currently doing work concerning inclusion and diversity, including hiring an additional staff member for the Office of Multicultural Affairs to focus on student development and the expansion of the Inclusion Council – formerly known as the President’s Diversity Council – to include more faculty, staff and students. Among these short-term goals was the proposal to host facilitated listening sessions in partnership with the Student Government Association in order to “learn from [students’] experiences,” as stated in the email.

The administration additionally plans to build on their ongoing work to “continue to diversify the college, promote full inclusion in our classrooms, houses and workspaces [and] provide sustained education on living, learning and working in an intercultural context,” according to the statement.

“The Provost’s Office and the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity have been working with faculty search committee chairs to apply best practices in inclusive recruitment and selection,” the email stated, a step which students recommended at the sit-in and town hall last semester.

Raven Fowlkes-Witten ’17, the primary organizer of last semester’s walk-out, said they were confused about the institution’s goals after reading the email.

Although hiring more PoC faculty is important in having the demographics of the student body represented in the staff and selecting students ‘from a diverse pool’ will allow for more opportunities for underrepresented groups as well as move against a racially homogenous school – these initiatives don’t fix the issues students already face on campus,” Fowlkes-Witten said. “I, as well as many other students, struggle with their use of the word ‘inclusion.’”

President of the Black Students’ Alliance Alexys Butler ’16 seemed to have a more optimistic view.

“I think President McCartney is doing great work with her colleagues and is putting forth a great effort in ensuring that our Smith community is inclusive and diverse. I think because this is the beginning of work that’s going to take a long time, her goals are feasible,” said Butler, adding, “All in all I’m  excited for the work that’s happening, and I truly deem it to be feasible. Every journey begins with one step, and Smith is taking many steps.”

“The college is also working with all faculty on programming that creates and supports inclusive classroom environments. Efforts to create more inclusive faculty efforts do not end at selection,” Hamilton and McCartney said in a joint-email in response to a request to comment from The Sophian. “Once a candidate is hired, the college focuses on retention and advancement through direct support of mentorship, development opportunities and supplemental resources for pre-tenure faculty.”

Butler said some members of the Black Students’ Alliance have attended meetings and been a part of President McCartney’s committee, and she is on Hamilton’s Chief Diversity Office Student Advisory Board.

“Each month [members of the Black Students’ Alliance] have brought our various concerns to him, and he’s brought them back to his colleagues and repeatedly assured us that his colleagues and many others in the community are working to fix the issues at hand,” said Butler.  Butler continued to say that McCartney has made herself available to both the Black Students’ Alliance and the Unity President’s Council, of which Butler is a also a member.     

“N’dea Drayton ’16, our [Black Students’ Alliance] co-chair, and I met with President McCartney and Dean Hamilton on Labor Day during fall semester, and she emphasized how much of a resource she wanted to be to us,” Butler said.

Butler also lauded Hamilton’s work on the campus climate survey, describing it as “crucial” to building a better community.    

“Student voices have always informed the efforts of the college, and we value the partnership of any individual or group that seeks to advance inclusion and diversity at Smith,” said Hamilton and McCartney. “The Pathways Campus Climate Survey, which will provide qualitative and quantitative data on the climate in our classrooms, houses and workplace, is in development and will also inform this process.”

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