“Faculty members pointed to a pattern that they say reflects the college’s growing timidity in the face of allegations from students, especially around the issue of race and ethnicity.”
For several months we have been covering the story of Jodi Shaw, a now-resigned Smith College staff member who blew the whistle on racist “anti-racist” training which singled out and demonized “whites”.
When Shaw first told her story publicly, she emphasized an incident of a false allegation of racism lodged against Smith College staff members. We wrote about that in our very first post about Shaw, Smith College whistleblower hits campus Critical Race Theory indoctrination: “Stop reducing my personhood to a racial category”:
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.
Repeatedly in later interviews and videos, Smith emphasized the importance of that 2018 incident in what followed in her own story.
The incident involved a student backed by the ACLU legal and public relations behemoth, which published her story, A Smith College Employee Called the Police on Me for Eating Lunch While Black.
Smith College agreed to change its campus policies in response, as the ACLU gleefully announced:
Today Smith College announced that it’s overhauling two key sets of policies involving calls to campus police. Both changes largely mirror the ACLU’s recommendations, and had they been in place last year, it is likely that Oumou would never have suffered the shame and trauma of an unnecessary police encounter.
But as we indicated in our first post about Shaw, an exhaustive outside investigation cleared the staff members. It was a racism hoax, a false narrative that fed into an national narrative and altered the policies of Smith College.
But it did a lot more. I didn’t fully appreciate the devastation caused by that false allegation of racism on the working-class staff members until an investigation recently released by The NY Times, Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College.
I was going to write about it last night, but as I read through the investigation, I found it hard to concentrate — the evil perpetrated at many levels of Smith College brought up a lot of emotions of what I’ve witnessed and have been shared with me about life on campuses. We have covered many of these cases in which false allegations of racism are weaponized as a power play to bring professors, fellow students, and administrations to their knees. It is a powerplay unfolding with increasing vindictiveness.
There are stories shared with me and of which I have knowledge which are not public, but reflect this campaign of intimidation being waged. Reading the Times story brought forth all those emotions and frustration.
The gravamen of the Times story is how Smith College, particularly its president Kathleen McCartney, sacrificed staff to appease the accuser without waiting for the investigation to conclude. That damage was compounded when, after the investigative report, the staff received no apologies. Instead, Smith College launched the abusive so-called “anti-racist” training sessions for staff of which Shaw has complained.
Please, read the whole Times article. It’s infuriating. The Times details how the lives of several working class staff members were destroyed by this false claim of “eating while black.”
Here’s a very short excerpt on the substance of what happened in the aftermath of the investigative report:
Less attention was paid three months later when a law firm hired by Smith College to investigate the episode found no persuasive evidence of bias. Ms. Kanoute was determined to have eaten in a deserted dorm that had been closed for the summer; the janitor had been encouraged to notify security if he saw unauthorized people there. The officer, like all campus police, was unarmed.
Smith College officials emphasized “reconciliation and healing” after the incident. In the months to come they announced a raft of anti-bias training for all staff, a revamped and more sensitive campus police force and the creation of dormitories — as demanded by Ms. Kanoute and her A.C.L.U. lawyer — set aside for Black students and other students of color.
But they did not offer any public apology or amends to the workers whose lives were gravely disrupted by the student’s accusation.
* * *
Those tensions come at a time when few in the Smith community feel comfortable publicly questioning liberal orthodoxy on race and identity, and some professors worry the administration is too deferential to its increasingly emboldened students.
“My perception is that if you’re on the wrong side of issues of identity politics, you’re not just mistaken, you’re evil,” said James Miller, an economics professor at Smith College and a conservative.
In an interview, Ms. McCartney said that Ms. Kanoute’s encounter with the campus staff was part of a spate of cases of “living while Black” harassment across the nation. There was, she noted, great pressure to act. “We always try to show compassion for everyone involved,” she said.
* * *
On Oct. 28, 2018, Ms. McCartney released a 35-page report from a law firm with a specialty in discrimination investigations. The report cleared Ms. Blair altogether and found no sufficient evidence of discrimination by anyone else involved, including the janitor who called campus police.
Still, Ms. McCartney said the report validated Ms. Kanoute’s lived experience, notably the fear she felt at the sight of the police officer. “I suspect many of you will conclude, as did I,” she wrote, “it is impossible to rule out the potential role of implicit racial bias.”
The report said Ms. Kanoute could not point to anything that supported the claim she made on Facebook of a yearlong “pattern of discrimination.”
Ms. McCartney offered no public apology to the employees after the report was released. “We were gobsmacked — four people’s lives wrecked, two were employees of more than 35 years and no apology,” said Tracey Putnam Culver, a Smith graduate who recently retired from the college’s facilities management department. “How do you rationalize that?”
Yet there was a part of the Times article that honed in on the problem and has received relatively little attention. But it goes to the heart of the problem, the capitulation of administrators to those who make accusations:
Faculty members, however, pointed to a pattern that they say reflects the college’s growing timidity in the face of allegations from students, especially around the issue of race and ethnicity. In 2016, students denounced faculty at Smith’s social work program as racist after some professors questioned whether admissions standards for the program had been lowered and this was affecting the quality of the field work. Dennis Miehls, one of the professors they decried, left the school not long after.
Then in the autumn of 2019, the religious studies department proposed a class on Native American religion and spirituality. A full complement of students registered but well before classes began, a small contingent of Native American students and allies pasted bright red posters on buildings on campus reviling the course as harmful, intrusive and disrespectful and attacking the instructor, who was young, white and not on a tenure track. He had an academic background in this field and had modeled his course on that of his mentor, who was a well-known professor and a member of the Choctaw Nation.
The administration declined to challenge the student protesters and had the instructor submit to sessions of “radical listening” with the protesters. In the end, the religious studies department dropped the class.
The whole scenario of what went down at Smith is a sorry commentary on how deeply corrupted so many college and university administrations have become — rather than follow the evidence and seek the truth, they seek the expediency. But capitulation to untruths never improves the situation. It only encourages more intimidation.
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