Smith College is a very leftist women’s college in central Massachusetts. As with many colleges and universities around the country, it is implementing Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) training, including how students, faculty, administrators, and staff should deal with their “white privilege.”

One staff member has just gone public, revealing the insulting and discriminatory nature of such CRT training. She released a video on YouTube, which has led to the expected reaction, including a statement from the President of Smith College denouncing the staff member’s views, but promising not to fire her over it, because the statements were made off campus and the staff member has union job protection.

The Video

Meet Jodi Shaw. Shaw is a Smith College alumna; she works for Smith College as a Student Support Coordinator; she is white; and, on October 27, 2020, she released a video on YouTube entitled “Dear Smith College: I Have a Few Requests”.

Shaw begins her video by stating that her race should not be relevant, but Smith College “has made it clear over and over and over again that not only is it relevant, but it’s possibly one of the most important…if not, the most important, feature of me, as a human.”

Here are some of her requests of Smith College:

  1. “Stop reducing my personhood to a racial category.”
  2. “Stop telling me what I must think and feel about myself, because I feel like you do that a lot. I know you do that a lot…and I need you to stop…”
  3. “Stop presuming to know who I am or what my culture is based upon my skin color…”
  4. “Stop asking me to project stereotypes and assumptions onto others based upon their skin color, because I feel like that’s what you [have] asked me to do incessantly over and over again for the past three years, and I’m not going to do that. I don’t think it’s right.”
  5. “Stop telling me young women of color have no power or agency in this world, because that’s not true.”
  6. “Stop telling me that young white women have power and privilege over everyone else—equally not true.”
  7. “Stop demanding that I admit to White Privilege and work on my so-called Implicit Bias as a condition of my continued employment.”
  8. “Stop telling me that as a white person, I am, quote, ‘especially responsible for doing the work of dismantling racism.'”
  9. “Stop emboldening students to act abusively toward staff by refusing to hold them accountable for their own egregious behavior.”
  10. “Last[ly], we have the right to work in an environment free from the ever-present terror that any unverified student allegation of racism or any other “-ism” has to crush our reputations, ruin our livelihood, and even endanger the physical safety of ourselves or our family.”

And that’s not all. Shaw alludes to the fact that she or her colleagues have been mistreated by students, and Smith College has either encouraged or permitted this behavior, stating, “And, I think we all know what I’m talking about.”

Shaw appears to be referring to a 2018 incident, where a black student accused a custodial staff member of racism for calling Campus Police. The staff member eventually was exonerated, as Inside Higher Ed reported:

Smith College released a report Monday detailing an independent investigation into a July call to campus police and rejecting the idea that the caller was motivated by clear racial bias. During the call, a Smith College custodial employee reported a black student who was eating lunch and relaxing in the Tyler House residence hall living room. The student “seems to be out of place,” the caller told the dispatcher.

Shaw goes on to note that staff racial composition differs from students or faculty, because staff are hired from the surrounding area, namely Northampton, Massachusetts:

“I think it’s important to mention here that staff are a very different group from faculty and students, and that our racial composition is mostly white people, because staff come from this area, which is a very white area. It’s western Massachusetts, New England; unlike faculty and students, who come from all over the world…If the pool you’re drawing from is mostly white, that’s going to be majority racial composition of that group. It’s a fact. It’s not good or bad. It just is.”

Shaw also balks at the notion of “white privilege”, noting that, as a staff member, her salary is “the equivalent of what it costs to attend Smith for a single semester and falls well-below that of the average faculty member”, including adjunct, associate, assistant, and full professors.

Bravely, Ms. Shaw asserts that other staff members feel similarly, but are afraid to “say it out loud”, claiming “that’s actually part of the problem…the extreme intimidate we are all working under in regards to race.” Shaw contends that Smith College’s narrative that women of color “have not power” and white women “have privilege” are “disempowering” to both groups of women.

She ends her statements with tones reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stating the following:

“I believe my value lies in the quality of my work, the goodness of my deeds, the essence of my character and the fullness of my heart, not my skin color.”

Shaw makes it clear that she is making this video as “an effort to organize in the workplace for better working conditions” and encourages staff, faculty, and students to contact her to continue the conversation.

Smith College’s Response

Does Smith College want to continue the conversation? No. Of course, not.

On October, 29, 2020, the President of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, issued “A Message” in response to Shaw’s Video, indicating that there has been an uproar over Shaw’s video:

Since the video was posted, members of the President’s Cabinet and I have heard from many in the Smith community who disagree strongly with the content of the post. This employee does not speak for the college or any part of the college. Further, we believe the video mischaracterizes the college’s important, ongoing efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive living, learning and working environment.

President McCartney goes on to note that Shaw’s video and statements are protected speech under the National Labor Relations Act (presumably staff have a union) with respect to workplace conditions, noting that employees “have the freedom to criticize the policies and practices of their employer.”

In conclusion, the President panders to her ever-woke audience, stating:

Nevertheless, I am writing to affirm that the President’s Cabinet and I believe we have a moral responsibility to promote racial justice, equity and inclusion at Smith College. To the people of color in our community, please know our commitment is steadfast. And especially to our students of color, please know we are here for you always.

President McCartney does not, however, states that she is going to investigate the hostile work environment, as alleged by Shaw.

What Next?

President Kathleen McCartney’s Message in Response to Shaw’s Video completely misses the mark and simply further demonstrates the elitism present at Smith College. President McCartney is living in an echo chamber, where the concepts of “White Privilege”, “Implicit Bias”, and “Antiracism” are being applauded and reinforced, but never questioned, critiqued, or scrutinized.

Expect more pushback against Shaw. As we know from covering many cases of “cancel culture”, it is likely that Smith College will be waiting for the right opportunity: a slip-up or something they can pin on Shaw as “on campus” conduct. Shaw likely will receive a lot of “silent” support from colleagues, but not a lot of open or “vocal” support.

We will continue to follow this situation.

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Leah M. Baldacci, Esq. is the Investigations Counsel at Legal Insurrections Foundation, Inc.

 

 
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