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Former Staffer Jodi Shaw Sues Smith College Alleging Anti-White Racially Hostile Workplace

Former Staffer Jodi Shaw Sues Smith College Alleging Anti-White Racially Hostile Workplace

Federal Court Complaint alleges: “Smith adopted an official policy of viewing every aspect of its operations through a racial lens; one that distorts all whites into malevolent oppressors and all people of color into hapless victims, regardless of any individual’s actual position or status. This policy permeated every decision and action taken by the school.”

You may remember Jodi Shaw from prior posts at Legal Insurrection, as well as her appearance at our panel on how Critical Race Training Is Harming Higher Ed.

The short version is that Jodi rocketed to national attention when she went public in a YouTube video about what she said was a racially hostile work environment at Smith College, where she was on staff at the time. On October 30, 2020, we published our first post about Jodi, Smith College whistleblower hits campus Critical Race Theory indoctrination: “Stop reducing my personhood to a racial category”:

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.”

As of this writing, the video has 140,000 views on YouTube, but pieces of it have been shared widely on other social media.

We continued to follow Shaw’s story as national media attention focused on her, including an appearance on Tucker Carlson:

A group of Smith College alums demanded that action be taken against Shaw, including White Privilege “Training” to “Safely Interact With Students”.

In February 2021, Smith announced via Bari Weiss’ substack that she was resigning,  Whistleblower at Smith College Resigns Over Racism, including releasing her resignation letter. Weiss wrote:

We all know that something morally grotesque is swallowing liberal America. Almost no one wants to risk talking about it out loud.

Every day I get phone calls from anxious Americans complaining about an ideology that wants to pull all of us into the past.

I get calls from parents telling me about the damaging things being taught in schools: so-called antiracist programs that urge children to obsess on the color of their skin.

I get calls from people working in corporate America forced to go to trainings in which they learn that they carry collective, race-based guilt — or benefit from collective, race-based virtue.

I get calls from young people just launching their careers telling me that they feel they have no choice but to profess fealty to this ideology in order to keep their jobs.

Almost no one who calls me is willing to go public. And I understand why. To go public with what’s happening is to risk their jobs and their reputations.

But the hour is very late. It calls for courage. And courage has come in the form of a woman named Jodi Shaw.

Smith College disputed Shaw’s claims, as we documented, Our “equity and inclusion training” has not created “a racially hostile environment for white people”:

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.

Kathleen McCartney

Along the way, a subtext of Shaw’s story, about how other staffers were treated after a false accusation by a student of racism that led to the white privilege training about which Shaw complained, made its way even to the NY Times, as we wrote in late February 2021, NY Times reveals the devastation after Smith College capitulated to a false claim of racism

Here’s a very short excerpt [from the Times article] 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?”

In the aftermath of the Times article, Black Intellectuals Send Letter to Smith College President Demanding Apology for Workers Smeared as Racist.

Shaw filed a discrimination complaint with a state agency, as she was required to do, and then obtained a “right to sue” letter.

This background was necessary to present so you understood the context in which Shaw just filed a lawsuit in federal court in Massachusetts, as announced by her attorney on Twitter:

The Complaint, linked on Twitter and confirmed by me on Pacer, alleges a tale similar to what Shaw has asserted before.


1. Federal and state civil rights laws prohibit racial discrimination in employment and apply equally to individuals of all races and ethnicities.

2. Over the last several years Defendant Smith College fostered a toxic climate of racial fear, hostility, and exclusion. This was felt most deeply by lower-level employees like Plaintiff Jodi Shaw who, while simply trying to make ends meet, suddenly found themselves thrust into the middle of an ideologically driven campaign of race-essentialism and collective guilt pushed by the school.

3. Specifically, Smith adopted an official policy of viewing every aspect of its operations through a racial lens; one that distorts all whites into malevolent oppressors and all people of color into hapless victims, regardless of any individual’s actual position or status. This policy permeated every decision and action taken by the school.

4. During Shaw’s tenure at Smith she was denied a significant professional career advancement opportunity when she was told by her supervisors that they canceled an orientation program she organized “because you are white.” In addition, defendants expected Shaw to implement and promote a “Residential Life Curriculum” in which students were instructed to project stereotypes and assumptions onto themselves and others based on skin color. Defendants required Shaw to maintain racially segregated student housing, called “affinity houses.” At a mandatory professional development retreat Shaw was publicly humiliated for not admitting to “white supremacy” and “white privilege” and was continually expected to submit to shaming and harassing group race therapy as an ongoing condition of employment.

5. When Shaw objected to these policies and the racially hostile environment at Smith College, defendants retaliated against her, attempted to stymie her efforts to file aninternal complaint, and then hedged and delayed their investigation. Defendants steadily
removed Plaintiff’s job responsibilities, denied her promotional opportunities consistent with all of her colleagues, placed her on furlough, launched a pretextual investigation into her email usage, and deliberately made any further employment at Smith College impossible for Shaw.

Shaw’s attorney in the lawsuit, David Pivtorak, provided this additional comment to me:

“This lawsuit represents a watershed moment in the fight against a poisonous ideology that threatens to cannibalize every major institution in our country. Although the things that happened to Jodi at Smith College would shock the conscience of the average American, we must realize that ritualized racial humiliation and open discrimination in the pursuit of ‘Equity’ are becoming normalized in the workplace. Jodi recognized this and spoke out when no one else had the guts to do so and had her life destroyed as a result. Our goal here is to hold Smith fully accountable for the irreparable harm they have done to Jodi and her mental and emotional well-being. But we also want to send a message to every institution in the Nation that the American people will no longer tolerate being pitted against each other based on arbitrary identity categories and will keep fighting until we’ve established our constitutional right to be treated as individuals.”

Smith College provided this comment on the lawsuit:

We are aware of Ms. Shaw’s latest lawsuit, which arises from allegations that were fully and independently investigated over a year ago, with no finding that Smith College discriminated or retaliated against Ms. Shaw in any way.

In the interests of transparency, we are attaching the college’s response to a similar complaint that Ms. Shaw filed several months ago with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and which she later withdrew.

As this is pending litigation, we will not comment further, except to state that the college will continue to defend against her latest claims.

We will continue to follow this case.


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I know Smith would allow a NAACP chapter on campus.

Hmmmm, I wonder if they’d allow a NAAWP chapter.

(Naaaa, I’m only fooling around; I don’t wonder at all.)

I hope that she wins big, and that she will be set for life when the dust settles. It is sweet turning civil rights law on them.

    artichoke in reply to JohnSmith100. | December 20, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    There’s an industry of lawyers laughing at what they call “reverse discrimination” claims. I don’t laugh at all, but this would indeed be a watershed if we see civil rights law protecting white people.

      Milhouse in reply to artichoke. | December 22, 2021 at 1:25 pm

      There’s no such thing as “reverse discrimination”. There’s just discrimination. There isn’t one way it’s “supposed” to go.

I hope she bankrupts Smith College and puts them out of business.. And then I hope the suit emboldens many others to do the same to other woke colleges and businesses.

LibraryGryffon | December 19, 2021 at 9:32 pm

Given that Smith is supposedly a women’s college, I can only assume that they will be discriminating against biological women in the very near future to promote their wokeness.

    Actually, they already are allowing males if they identify as “female” on the application.
    I can’t wait for these “females” to begin playing on Smith’s athletic teams.


    There is no greater worship of DEI than to elevate MEN who claim to be Women – above all ACTUAL women (DEI means “god” in Latin and “diversity, equity and inclusion” to the woke).

    Demeaning women by demanding people call them “menstrators” or “birthing people” so that a MAN can claim the word “woman” (to legitimize his claim and avoid hurting his feelings) – this is the epitome of subjugation. Women have been called “women ” for millions of years, but now that is supposed to change because a very very small group of .003% of the population says so. HOW RUDE AND SELF-CENTERED CAN ANY GROUP GET. What if the the .003% of people who are ober 6 foot 7 inches tall forced all people to wear stilts so tat they would not have to bend down ? Oh, and you had to change your pronoun to “shorty” — would that be fair ? HOW IS THIS FAIR ? HOW IS THIS RIGHT ?

    Women can now see who really supports them vs those who fake support for political gain or social virtue signaling. THIS IS NOT EVEN A POLITICAL THING – IT IS ABOUT FAIRNESS AND DECENCY.

    The people promoting this stuff are just taking advantage of the good nature of the America people.

Diversity, Inequity, and Exclusion.


This is an important case to push back against the Woke maddness.

This case is an important case because the woke agenda is outlined in writing and cannot be denied

What I find unusual is that there is no solicitation to crowdfund this effort. Is Jodi maybe getting pro bono, or contingency?

    artichoke in reply to henrybowman. | December 20, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    Lawyers take civil cases on contingency when they see financial upside in it. It’s a good sign. But for criminal cases there’s no contingency because there’s no payout, only apparently in Wisconsin a lawyer can end up keeping the bail money that’s released.

I was reading “college’s response” to an earlier complaint by Ms. Shaw and wondering what the problem was. Then …

In section 5 “Complainant’s 2019-2020 Performance” on p. 10 we learn that Ms. Shaw was subjected to regular and longer and longer “performance coaching” meetings which are described as necessary to improve her performance, and also some vague stuff about not working well with others or being inaccurate.

Being a presumably very capable Smith College graduate herself with at least ordinary reading, writing and mathematical skills, it’s hard to believe she had so many problems in her performance necessitating longer and longer coaching meetings with her boss.

This stuff may not violate Massachusetts law, but it probably violates federal civil rights law.

Hi, just an FYI about the student “eating” in the dorm closed for the summer. She was actually taking a nap on one of the couches in the lounge of the dorm. The janitor called security because that is the policy and did not try to wake her up. After she was awakened she decided to be confrontational sand cried racism when she was called out by the staff.

This lawsuit is not just for her but for all of us. I hope she has very good records of everything that went down.