Pearls and Cashmere

As a student body with a strong sensibility towards social justice, we believe it is our responsibility to show Ms. Spurzem exactly what the Smith student body is like. Work together, Smithies. Let's send a message.

Open Letter to the Smith Community

In response to a recent series of hate crimes on campus, a group of students founded the Facebook group Respect Existence or Expect Resistance. Students have produced an open letter containing demands for the Smith administration regarding policies surrounding incidents such as this. We encourage all Smithies past and present to read this letter and pass it on. This incident must not be passed over.

iaquariuschicken:

April 6, 2012

The recent instances of violence toward low-income/working class, queer, international students and students of color on Smith campus are just a few examples of ongoing, daily forms of institutionalized violence. The institutional culture of Smith College sanctions these types of violence. Violence encompasses not only physical attacks but also includes all language that can damage, hurt and traumatize. These are everyday lived experiences and not just recent and unfortunate situations. Note: the content below is incredibly violent and perverse.

Anne Spurzem’s Letter to the Editor did not simply represent ignorance and bigotry but was an act of violence reflecting dominant ideologies of power, privilege and education. Her letter reinforces the dominant idea that only white, heterosexual, and affluent women deserve to be at Smith College, a prestigious liberal arts institution. This dominant idea of belonging and entitlement creates an institutional culture that sanctions violence on our campus every day —  in houses, classrooms, dining halls and on campus towards low-income/working class, queer, international students and students of color. Violence is manifested in coded language around race and class and in daily microaggressions - subtle and normalized actions that are reminders of who “belongs” here and who does not. The institutional assertion that house community serves as a “home away from a home,” masks how houses perpetuate acts of violence and allow for ongoing cultures of aggression and exclusion.

The language in the following paragraph is violent and potentially triggering.

On March 12, 2012, the night of an intergenerational dialogue about Smith’s evolving community, a first year student came home to Parsons House and received a hateful, violent, homophobic, xenophobic, racist and classist note slipped under her door. The note said, “Spurzem was right, go back to where you came from you freeloader, sandnigger, dyke.” About two weeks later, on April 1 the same first year student in Parsons House received another note that said, “It doesn’t matter how many white friends you have, you are still a sandnigger. You don’t belong here.” These three notes (Anne Spurzem’s letter in addition to the two student notes) are a series of violent attacks on our community and individuals as human beings.

The present climate is nothing new. Twenty years ago, there were several instances where four students of color were racially targeted in their houses. Posted on the doors of their rooms were lyrical poems crafted specifically for these women explaining why they do not belong at Smith and how they would be harmed if they did not leave. Other instances involved black dolls hung on nooses in houses; swastikas painted in menstrual blood; “Niggers go home” painted on the walls of Lilly Hall; homophobic slogans spray-painted in front of student rooms in Jordan, Hubbard, and Tyler Houses; and several more racist notes posted on doors of students’ rooms.

Ten years ago, similar instances of violence occurred on Smith campus. One white student threw silverware at a student of color working at the dining hall in Cutter House. Queer students and students of color woke up to extreme hate speech on four separate occasions within two weeks on campus. In Gillett House, a practicing Muslim student, who had left a water bottle in the bathroom for her daily ablutions, found her water bottle stolen then defaced by housemates. To our knowledge, even in cases where the students’ identities were known, they were not held accountable for their actions.

Both in 1988 and in 2001, student movements emerged to collectively resist. Both Concerned Students of All Colors (1988) and Grassroots (2001) organized walk-outs and sit-ins in College Hall, producing a list of demands calling for institutional change.

As the present day demonstrates, the institution has historically failed to meet student demands. Today, the institutional response has been equally inadequate. The emails sent to the community by Dean Mahoney and President Christ did not address the fact that students feel hurt and are unsafe on campus, nor did it make available resources to help students struggling daily with the climate of pervasive racism and violence. The language in these emails falsely framed the notes as the work of a single perpetrator and disassociated the institution from its role in perpetuating the culture of racism at Smith. “Racial tension” has always been here behind the mirage of “diversity.” Emails are not institutional action, and a police investigation will not heal our grief.

History has shown us that to feel whole and to feel like a human being with dignity on this campus is an ongoing struggle. Smith is a microcosm of the larger society. The institution has created initiatives since 1988 to foster a safer environment, but social justice is an ongoing process and there are many structural changes that need to occur at the college in order for us to eliminate oppressive practices and ideologies. The diversity we have today (i.e. class, race/ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, age) signifies progress, but not necessarily harmony. Diversity without critical consciousness about what it will take for each of us to transform oppressive power relations across the campus means that acts of violence like Spurzem’s letter can and will occur every day. We must all (as individuals and as an institution) recognize and understand our inner Anne Spurzems and be conscious of our own privileges and power. Simply recognizing that diversity is beautiful, and a central commitment of the college, does not end institutionalized oppression. Moreover, disassociating from racism and racists only contributes to the problem. Our present moment is part of a continuum.  Let’s complicate the idea of diversity with histories of oppression and resistance.

Student organizing is not enough. By definition, it will reach only a portion of campus. We need campus-wide communication accessible to all students, and this is something that can happen only with the support of the institution and administration. When racist threats happened at Williams College last Fall, the president immediately responded by cancelling classes, and stating that “in the wake of a shock such as this [racist incident], the campus community [needed] to take a pause.”* We too must take a pause: now. This will not wait ten days.

We are calling for greater administrative action; but our entire community needs to be held accountable. We must all address the fact that we create and perpetuate this culture. We make up this institution. Without the people, there is no institution; and that fact is too powerful to ignore.


Signed,

The Students of Mobilizing Smith College  - mobilizing-smith-college@googlegroups.com

*[http://president.williams.edu/letters-from-the-president/1174/]

(Source: mermaidheartsongs)

I prefer knitted scarfs to pearls and cashmere…
Proud 2008 graduate of Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT.
Proud Smith class of 2011
Even Prouder Ada Comstock Scholar.
I chose Smith because I wanted to be a Smithie! Isn’t that we all chose Smith?

I prefer knitted scarfs to pearls and cashmere…

Proud 2008 graduate of Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT.

Proud Smith class of 2011

Even Prouder Ada Comstock Scholar.

I chose Smith because I wanted to be a Smithie! Isn’t that we all chose Smith?

allison grady, smith college class of 2003, originally from connecticut, proud graduate of a rigorous private high school, and recent graduate of an ivy league professional school. i was accepted into the bridge program, and on my first day at smith a parent told me that they didn’t think that my being half-puerto rican “counted” as being a minority. i spent the next 4 years being sure that i counted. double major in religion and government. PSE, kahn scholar, CSE, and chosen for the picker program. i was an extremely grateful MTV networks intern and at each of my job interviews since graduation, each person commented positively on my being a smithie. smith was probably the hardest 4 years of my life—socially, academically, and personally. but i made life-long friends and learned more about myself and the world than i could have ever dreamed. i learned how to write and how to think. i am filled with pride as i read about my fellow smithies. the academic and social values that i’ve learned at smith will be demonstrated through the work i do in pediatric oncology everyday and that’s more important to me than my name on some building.

allison grady, smith college class of 2003, originally from connecticut, proud graduate of a rigorous private high school, and recent graduate of an ivy league professional school. i was accepted into the bridge program, and on my first day at smith a parent told me that they didn’t think that my being half-puerto rican “counted” as being a minority. i spent the next 4 years being sure that i counted. double major in religion and government. PSE, kahn scholar, CSE, and chosen for the picker program. i was an extremely grateful MTV networks intern and at each of my job interviews since graduation, each person commented positively on my being a smithie. smith was probably the hardest 4 years of my life—socially, academically, and personally. but i made life-long friends and learned more about myself and the world than i could have ever dreamed. i learned how to write and how to think. i am filled with pride as i read about my fellow smithies. the academic and social values that i’ve learned at smith will be demonstrated through the work i do in pediatric oncology everyday and that’s more important to me than my name on some building.

with my cashmere and tie 
Proud POC ‘11 Smithie 

with my cashmere and tie 

Proud POC ‘11 Smithie 

Class of ‘09. Biology major. Hubbardite forever. White. Heterosexual. Recovered Catholic/Atheist. Lower middle class. Raised in single parent home. 4.0 GPA in high school. Decent, but not spectacular, SAT scores. Love yoga, baking, hiking, and long walks on the beach. Ambitious. Activist. Currently in grad school. Less idealistic than I used to be, but still think I can change the world for the better. I chose Smith because I knew it produced confident, intelligent, opinionated women. I wanted to be one of those women. I am humbled and honored to now call myself a Smith alumna.Smith helped me grow both intellectually and personally. Smith challenged me on a daily basis. I was forced to decide what my opinions were and to defend them intelligently. I learned who I was and what I thought. I consider the diversity of the Smith student body to be a tremendous asset. How can one grow if one is not exposed to new ideas, experiences and world views?The new Smith student body that you despair of (including its lesbians, international students on financial aid, and low-income women of color who are the first in their family to go to college) are the people that I respect and admire more than anyone else in the world. The people that you deride are my best friends and my role models. I am very proud to be part of this generation of Smithies. As for marrying an Amherst man, there’s slim to no chance of that happening for me (no offense to my friends that went there). My current boyfriend is thoroughly wonderful. I can’t imagine a better partner, and guess what? He doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree (…yet). Ms. Spurzem, I laughed when I read your letter. I thought it had been submitted as  a joke. The views you expressed are offensive and outdated. Are you sure you didn’t actually graduate in the ’30s? For the record: This sweater is cashmere. I got it for free at a clothing swap.

Class of ‘09. Biology major. Hubbardite forever. White. Heterosexual. Recovered Catholic/Atheist. Lower middle class. Raised in single parent home. 4.0 GPA in high school. Decent, but not spectacular, SAT scores. Love yoga, baking, hiking, and long walks on the beach. Ambitious. Activist. Currently in grad school. Less idealistic than I used to be, but still think I can change the world for the better. 

I chose Smith because I knew it produced confident, intelligent, opinionated women. I wanted to be one of those women. I am humbled and honored to now call myself a Smith alumna.

Smith helped me grow both intellectually and personally. Smith challenged me on a daily basis. I was forced to decide what my opinions were and to defend them intelligently. I learned who I was and what I thought. I consider the diversity of the Smith student body to be a tremendous asset. How can one grow if one is not exposed to new ideas, experiences and world views?

The new Smith student body that you despair of (including its lesbians, international students on financial aid, and low-income women of color who are the first in their family to go to college) are the people that I respect and admire more than anyone else in the world. The people that you deride are my best friends and my role models. I am very proud to be part of this generation of Smithies. 

As for marrying an Amherst man, there’s slim to no chance of that happening for me (no offense to my friends that went there). My current boyfriend is thoroughly wonderful. I can’t imagine a better partner, and guess what? He doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree (…yet). 

Ms. Spurzem, I laughed when I read your letter. I thought it had been submitted as  a joke. The views you expressed are offensive and outdated. Are you sure you didn’t actually graduate in the ’30s? 

For the record: This sweater is cashmere. I got it for free at a clothing swap.

Anonymous asked: "The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." -Maya Angelou

Interesting conversation about Smith’s community!

Pearls and Cashmere?! 
Intergenerational Dialogue about Smith College’s Evolving Community

March 12, 2012, 7PM, Neilson Browsing Room 

A recently published Letter to the Editor of the Sophian by an alum from the class of 1984 portrayed Smith College as declining in its historically rigorous educational standards because of the increasing presence of students of color, as well as low-income and working-class, international, and LGBTQ students. How do we understand this letter, the diverse responses and reactions, and the evolving Smith community? Through an intergenerational dialogue, we hope to engage students, alums, faculty, and staff in a conversation that grounds the present in an understanding of the past. The recent events emerge not as an anomaly but represent the ongoing struggle for social justice. Diversity is not social justice; social justice is an ongoing process of uprooting systems of oppression and decolonizing all facets of life and society. Like today, students in the past several decades have worked to create a new educational community through movements led by Concerned Students of All Color (1988) and Grassroots (2001). Come learn these histories and how, by valuing our lived experiences, we can re-imagine and redefine the Smith community. All are welcome to participate in this conversation. The event will include the following before we open it up for a dialogue:Introduction by Carro Hua ’13 (Weaving Voices)Screening of documentary footage from the College Archives on student organizing for social justice in the early 2000s.Comments by Ginetta Candelario ‘90 and Associate Professor of Sociology and Latin American and Latina/o Studies, and Neda Maghbouleh ’04, Visiting Instructor of Sociology, and PhD Candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara.Open discussion moderated by Jennifer Guglielmo, Associate Professor of History, American Studies and the Program for the Study of Women and GenderAttendees will include:Lisa Armstrong, SWGBianca Bryant ‘14, Black Students’ AllianceXiomara Castro AC ‘13J, Prism; SGA Diversity Board/Grassroots (2002)Kendra Colburn, AC ‘08; SACA chair 2006-08
Lisa Daniels ‘12, Black Students’ Alliance chairVelma Garcia ‘79, GOV/LALS
Paula Giddings, AAS/MeridiansGlorianne Gonzalez ‘12, NosotrasMac Hamilton ’13, SGA Diversity CommitteeMichelle Joffroy, SPN/SWG/LALS
Daphne Lamothe, AAS/SWG/AMSAlli Langley ‘13, SSJICKatherine Lebron ‘12, NosotrasNoemi Linares-Ramirez ‘15, Nosotras/ISSADonique McIntosh, ResLife
Sophie Nathan ‘14 Pamela Nolan Young, Office of Institutional Diversity and EquityDawn Peterson, HSTElizabeth Pryor, HST/AMSKevin Quashie, AAS/SWGL’Tanya Richmond, Office of Multicultural Affairs
Emily Rider-Longmaid ‘13 J, SSJIC/SASA/Weaving VoicesDonna Riley, EGR/SWG
Kristen Rosa ‘12, SSJICNadya Sbaiti, HSTNowmee Shehab, ‘15, Prism
Britainy Stephens ‘14, Black Students’ AllianceNancy Sternbach, SPN/LALSHannah Sultan ’12, Multi-Ethnic Interracial Smith CollegeJennie Wachowski ‘13, SASATina Wildhagen, SOC
Nanci Young, College Archives
Aimée. Class of 2010. French language and literature major.
I believe that love does not have to be defined by gender.
Through hard work, sacrifice, and saving every penny I could, I have finally been able to pay my student loan in one fell swoop. I’m in a slightly scary place now, but I know I can pull myself up and over every hurdle.
I just returned from a year teaching young children in China, where I gained perspective on being an Other.
I am so proud of Smith and the way it has evolved, and I feel lucky to be part of it. I learned so much from my professors and the beautiful people who make Smith what it is. I learned that we never stop learning.
Should anyone bemoan the diversity in Smith’s community: I recommend that person, Smith alum or otherwise, turn on their brain, and open their mind: WAKE UP. You should be proud of what we have become and what we have the power to accomplish.

Aimée. Class of 2010. French language and literature major.

I believe that love does not have to be defined by gender.

Through hard work, sacrifice, and saving every penny I could, I have finally been able to pay my student loan in one fell swoop. I’m in a slightly scary place now, but I know I can pull myself up and over every hurdle.

I just returned from a year teaching young children in China, where I gained perspective on being an Other.

I am so proud of Smith and the way it has evolved, and I feel lucky to be part of it. I learned so much from my professors and the beautiful people who make Smith what it is. I learned that we never stop learning.

Should anyone bemoan the diversity in Smith’s community: I recommend that person, Smith alum or otherwise, turn on their brain, and open their mind: WAKE UP. You should be proud of what we have become and what we have the power to accomplish.

This is what a white, Fairfield County, prep-school attending Smithie looks like sitting for a portrait 3 decades on. Sorry, no pearls that day, but I’m wearing my great-grandmother’s pendant, so I hope that will be upper-class enough (whatever that means) for you, Ms Spurzem. I come from a long line, on both sides of my family, of mostly old money, prep schools and Ivy League colleges (though the old money didn’t trickle down quite to my generation, so I was a scholarship student, too).
I went to Smith right about when you did, (Class of 78), but I don’t even start to recognize the white-privilege, country club school you seem to remember with such fondness. If, when I was looking at colleges, Smith had presented an array of cookie-cutter rich white women like your ideal, instead of the brilliant, magical, challenging mixture that I encountered at every visit and prospective student party, I would have run as fast as I could in the other direction.
But it didn’t and doesn’t, thank Sophia! And I am unspeakably proud to be part of such a remarkable sisterhood of accomplished, articulate women of every color and age and walk of life. As for you, dear Ms Spurzem, you might want to get your myopia looked at. Perhaps venturing beyond the gated neighborhoods and the country clubs would help.

This is what a white, Fairfield County, prep-school attending Smithie looks like sitting for a portrait 3 decades on. Sorry, no pearls that day, but I’m wearing my great-grandmother’s pendant, so I hope that will be upper-class enough (whatever that means) for you, Ms Spurzem. I come from a long line, on both sides of my family, of mostly old money, prep schools and Ivy League colleges (though the old money didn’t trickle down quite to my generation, so I was a scholarship student, too).

I went to Smith right about when you did, (Class of 78), but I don’t even start to recognize the white-privilege, country club school you seem to remember with such fondness. If, when I was looking at colleges, Smith had presented an array of cookie-cutter rich white women like your ideal, instead of the brilliant, magical, challenging mixture that I encountered at every visit and prospective student party, I would have run as fast as I could in the other direction.

But it didn’t and doesn’t, thank Sophia! And I am unspeakably proud to be part of such a remarkable sisterhood of accomplished, articulate women of every color and age and walk of life. As for you, dear Ms Spurzem, you might want to get your myopia looked at. Perhaps venturing beyond the gated neighborhoods and the country clubs would help.

Dear Ms. Spurzem,
The pearls and cashmere are fake. The face I’m making? It’s as close as I could get it to the one I was making as I read your letter. A mix of shocked, surprised, amused (because clearly it had to be a joke), and offended.
I don’t feel the need to identify myself to you because the only word that describes me the best is: Smithie. I am so unbelievably proud, humbled, amazed, and lucky to be able to consider myself such. I feel sorry for you. Your Smith education must have failed you, and what an amazing thing you missed out on. Thank goodness there are so many amazing and unique individuals from all walks of life who are willing to take every advantage offered here. 
P.S.- I’m pretty sure my parents would rather me marry another Smithie, than some random Amherst guy I met at a keg party while wearing pearls.

Dear Ms. Spurzem,

The pearls and cashmere are fake. The face I’m making? It’s as close as I could get it to the one I was making as I read your letter. A mix of shocked, surprised, amused (because clearly it had to be a joke), and offended.

I don’t feel the need to identify myself to you because the only word that describes me the best is: Smithie. I am so unbelievably proud, humbled, amazed, and lucky to be able to consider myself such. I feel sorry for you. Your Smith education must have failed you, and what an amazing thing you missed out on. Thank goodness there are so many amazing and unique individuals from all walks of life who are willing to take every advantage offered here. 

P.S.- I’m pretty sure my parents would rather me marry another Smithie, than some random Amherst guy I met at a keg party while wearing pearls.

Annie De Groot.
Class of 1978.
Tenny House.
Physician.
CEO of a Biotech Company.
Passionate advocate for “access to care” whether vaccines (in Mali) or health care (in the US).
Believe that Smith is the College of Choice for women who want to make change in the world.
Thrilled to be a part of the Class of 1978 Fulfill the Potential Scholarship project, which is establishing a scholarship for women who have been accepted to Smith from post conflict and developing world countries.
Honored and moved every time I go to Smith to meet with “FTP” women who are currently enrolled at Smith.
Daughter of a Smithie (well, she did go there!) Hi Mom!
Aunt of a current Smithie. (Go Phoebes!) 
Legally Married to Deb, mother of two beautiful children.
This picture is of me with the four wonderful Navegantes outreach workers who work at Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, our free clinic for the uninsured in Providence. No pearls, I gave them to my daughter Aminata who was accepted to Smith but declined to go (her loss!). Still hoping that she will change her mind.
Fiercely Proud of my Smith degree. Proud to have three Smithies working with me at my biotech company. Smith gave me the confidence to do everything that I am doing now.
I contribute every month to “Fulfill the Potential Scholarship fund. Join me in supporting our fund to educate women from all over the world to lead lives of distinction through Smith. Read more at http://smith78.blogspot.com/

Annie De Groot.

Class of 1978.

Tenny House.

Physician.

CEO of a Biotech Company.

Passionate advocate for “access to care” whether vaccines (in Mali) or health care (in the US).

Believe that Smith is the College of Choice for women who want to make change in the world.

Thrilled to be a part of the Class of 1978 Fulfill the Potential Scholarship project, which is establishing a scholarship for women who have been accepted to Smith from post conflict and developing world countries.

Honored and moved every time I go to Smith to meet with “FTP” women who are currently enrolled at Smith.

Daughter of a Smithie (well, she did go there!) Hi Mom!

Aunt of a current Smithie. (Go Phoebes!) 

Legally Married to Deb, mother of two beautiful children.

This picture is of me with the four wonderful Navegantes outreach workers who work at Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, our free clinic for the uninsured in Providence. No pearls, I gave them to my daughter Aminata who was accepted to Smith but declined to go (her loss!). Still hoping that she will change her mind.

Fiercely Proud of my Smith degree. Proud to have three Smithies working with me at my biotech company. Smith gave me the confidence to do everything that I am doing now.

I contribute every month to “Fulfill the Potential Scholarship fund. Join me in supporting our fund to educate women from all over the world to lead lives of distinction through Smith. Read more at http://smith78.blogspot.com/