From Campus Conversation to Action: “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”
By Mac Hamilton, SGA Diversity Committee Chair
4 April 2012
Warning: This article references hate speech and may be triggering. Members of Counseling Services are trained in trauma counseling, and can be contacted at (413) 585-2840.
As many of you know, on Monday, March 12, a resident of Parsons House received a racist anonymous note. In response, an investigation to identify the perpetrator of the attack was initiated by Campus Police, an e-mail was sent to the campus by Dean Maureen Mahoney and students of Parsons Complex attended a mandatory house meeting to discuss how to repair their community.
On Sunday, April 1, this resident received another anonymous note with a similarly racist message. In response, President Carol Christ sent a campus-wide e-mail on Tuesday.
While many individual responses to the victim and the Parsons community have been appropriate, in my opinion, the institutional response has been inadequate. These incidents are not isolated events, but are reflective of a wider culture that allows attacks like these to occur. They are not individual acts of hatred, but are manifestations of a culture of racism, classism, xenophobia and homophobia that exists in our society – Smith College is not an exception. Now, more than ever, is an important time for us, as Smith students, to rise up and demand change from the institution and from our fellow students.
In response to these acts, a group has been formed, called “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.” You may have seen students dressed in black in the Campus Center, silently protesting against the normalization of hate crimes. You may have seen an image of a fist declaring that “racism is violence.” You may have attended one of three workshops based around social justice, white privilege and ethnostress planned by this group.
I believe students at Smith have been actively working to dismantle the systematic oppression that condones these acts of violence. Notably, the SGA Diversity Committee (of which I am the current chair), has held two open conversations with students and administration on gender and sexuality and class on campus. Deans Mahoney and Julianne Ohotnicky, Provost Marilyn Schuster, school psychiatrist Donna Cohen, director of Institutional Diversity and Equity Pamela Nolan Young and Residence Life staff members Hannah Durrant and Annie Cohen have attended. In addition, the Committee is restructuring to include stronger beginning-of-the-year training, an increased role for diversity representatives in house councils and representation on the committee of diversity-related organizations on campus.
On Monday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m. in Neilson Browsing Room, we will hold our final conversation on race, which we highly encourage you to attend. Discussions will be held at small round tables, discussion prompts given, and each table will have its own conversation. A diversity representative will be present at each table, so they can bring back comments, concerns and ideas to the Committee.
Conversations are important, but they are not enough to create the kind of change that Smith is in dire need of. Tomorrow, Friday, April 6 at noon, students will meet at the Admissions office to march to Pierce Hall, where the Board of Trustees meet. We will march in solidarity with low-income and working class students, students of color, international students and students of all sexual orientations and gender identities, to demand institutional and cultural change at Smith College.
To take an active role, you can find “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance” on Facebook, or contact the SGADiversity Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Link to article here.