Jodi Shaw is the former Smith College staff member who blew the whistle on horrific mandatory white-shaming training programs at the college. We have covered Shaw’s situation for several months:

Smith’s videos and writings have been replete with very specific examples of the trainings, including these mentioned in her resignation letter:

…. For example, in August 2018, just days before I was to present a library orientation program into which I had poured a tremendous amount of time and effort, and which had previously been approved by my supervisors, I was told that I could not proceed with the planned program. Because it was going to be done in rap form and “because you are white,” as my supervisor told me, that could be viewed as “cultural appropriation.” My supervisor made clear he did not object to a rap in general, nor to the idea of using music to convey orientation information to students. The problem was my skin color….

As it turned out, my experience in the library was just the beginning. In my new position, I was told on multiple occasions that discussing my personal thoughts and feelings about my skin color is a requirement of my job. I endured racially hostile comments, and was expected to participate in racially prejudicial behavior as a continued condition of my employment. I endured meetings in which another staff member violently banged his fist on the table, chanting “Rich, white women! Rich, white women!” in reference to Smith alumnae. I listened to my supervisor openly name preferred racial quotas for job openings in our department. I was given supplemental literature in which the world’s population was reduced to two categories — “dominant group members” and “subordinated group members” — based solely on characteristics like race….

The last straw came in January 2020, when I attended a mandatory Residence Life staff retreat focused on racial issues. The hired facilitators asked each member of the department to respond to various personal questions about race and racial identity. When it was my turn to respond, I said “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that.” I was the only person in the room to abstain.

Later, the facilitators told everyone present that a white person’s discomfort at discussing their race is a symptom of “white fragility.” They said that the white person may seem like they are in distress, but that it is actually a “power play.” In other words, because I am white, my genuine discomfort was framed as an act of aggression. I was shamed and humiliated in front of all of my colleagues.

Shaw’s situation, and her resignation, have received substantial media attention. Shaw easily raised much more than the $150,000 she sought to cover legal fees and living expenses, and has pledged to donate any funds in excess of that amount to others who need help. (The “hold” on her GoFundMe page has been lifted.)

Against this backdrop of specific instances of race-shaming listed by Shaw, and negative publicity, Smith College’s President Kathleen McCartny has issued a public Statement responding to Shaw’s resignation letter. McCartny does not address any of the specific instances raised by Shaw in her resignation letter, and instead accuses Shaw of smearing the college. McCartny pledges to continue the “equity and inclusion” training:

FEBRUARY 22, 2021

Dear members of the Smith community:

A college staff member resigned last Friday in a letter that she made available to the public. Ordinarily, a personnel matter of this nature would not warrant a letter from the president to the college community; however, in this instance the former employee, in her letter, accuses the college of creating a racially hostile environment for white people, a baseless claim that the college flatly denies. In addition, her letter contains a number of misstatements about the college’s equity and inclusion initiatives, misstatements that are offensive to the members of our community who are working every day to create a campus where everyone, regardless of racial identity, can learn, work and thrive.

I write to emphasize that Smith College remains unyielding in its commitment to advancing racial justice, a commitment that includes and benefits every member of our community. Given the centrality of this work to Smith College’s mission, I want to take this opportunity to ensure that each of you has accurate information.

The employee suggests that Smith tried to buy her silence. But it was the employee herself who demanded payment of an exceptionally large sum in exchange for dropping a threatened legal claim and agreeing to standard confidentiality provisions. Further, while the employee aims her complaint at Smith, her public communications make clear that her grievances about equity and inclusion training run more broadly—as she puts it “to the medical field … the publishing field, the tech field, it’s in the schools, the legal field, public schools, private schools, colleges of course, government. It’s everywhere.”

At Smith College, our commitment to, and strategies for, advancing equity and inclusion are grounded in evidence. Research demonstrates the continued presence of systemic discrimination against people of color across all areas of society, from education to health care to employment. Redressing the reality of racism requires asking ourselves how we might, even inadvertently, reinforce existing inequalities or contribute to an exclusionary atmosphere. While it might be uncomfortable to accept that each of us, regardless of color or background, may have absorbed unconscious biases or at times acted in ways that are harmful to members of our community, such self-reflection is a prerequisite for making meaningful progress. The aim of our equity and inclusion training is never to shame or ostracize. Rather, the goal is to facilitate authentic conversations that help to overcome the barriers between us, and the college welcomes constructive criticism of our workshops and trainings.

As a college, we remain committed to continuous learning in support of the humanity, worth, and dignity of every member of our community.

Sincerely,
Kathleen McCartney

Shaw has issued a response to McCartny’s Statement:

My Response to Smith’s Statement, February 22, 2021

On Friday, I resigned from my post at Smith College because I could no longer tolerate the effects that the hostile work environment was having on my physical and mental health. As I mentioned in my resignation letter, I resigned in lieu of accepting a generous settlement from the college that would have, like all settlements, required confidentiality. I have been moved beyond words by the outpouring of support from people across the political and ideological spectrum who recognize the danger that the toxic critical social justice ideology poses to individual freedom.

Today, the president of Smith College responded to my resignation letter. In her statement, she says:

The employee suggests that Smith tried to buy her silence. But it was the employee herself who demanded payment of an exceptionally large sum in exchange for dropping a threatened legal claim and agreeing to standard confidentiality provisions.

This is a mischaracterization of my conversations with Smith, and one I feel is critical to address in light of the trust people have placed in me and the generous support I have received from so many since my resignation.

After I went public in October with my complaints about the hostile working environment at Smith, the college made clear to me that they would like me to accept a severance and leave. I offered to accept a severance only if Smith would take meaningful steps to end the racially hostile environment by ending their mandatory race-based struggle sessions and their requirements that employees judge each other and the students in our care on the basis of their skin color. Smith quickly made clear to me that they would not consider such changes. The ideology would stay. Only a financial settlement with the college was possible.

I then had to consider how I could do the most good for this cause. Was it by bringing my own case and continuing to speak out against Smith? Or could I negotiate a large enough financial settlement to allow me — as I am now trying to do through my fundraising — to help others at Smith and beyond escape their hostile work environments? This would have required a very substantial sum — one that I suggested, but that Smith did not consider.

Instead, they offered me enough money to make myself and my two children comfortable for a time, but not to do what I need to do for this cause that I am so committed to. My lawyer urged me to consider accepting Smith’s offer, given my financial situation and the toll the hostile work environment has had on my health. But I turned it down. The importance of telling the truth and, I hope, urging others to do the same wasn’t worth the price.

I knew this was going to be an ugly process, and I’m sure this is not the last attempt Smith will make to discredit me. It seems that facts do not matter to Smith; what matters to Smith is its commitment to destructive race-based policies.

I look forward to seeing Smith in court.

Shaw probably is in for a long haul. As we have seen in the Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College case, and numerous student due process cases we have covered, colleges and universities bring a particular viciousness to their litigation tactics, while preening moral superiority because they are in “higher education.”

 

 
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