A staffer at Smith College has resigned, publishing a letter accusing the elite women’s university of creating a “racially hostile environment” against white people.
Jodi Shaw used to be a student support coordinator at the Massachusetts college but recently sent a resignation letter to its leadership saying the environment left her “physically and mentally debilitated.”
“I can no longer work in this environment, nor can I remain silent about a matter so central to basic human dignity and freedom,” said the letter, published by columnist Bari Weiss.
Smith College didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
An alumna of the private liberal arts institution, Shaw said the culture had changed forcefully after a 2018 incident when a black student accused a white staffer of racism for calling campus security on her. An investigation showed no evidence of racial bias, but the college put in place a list of initiatives aimed at fighting “systemic racism” on campus.
Yet the ideology driving the efforts seemed more concerned with inflaming anti-white sentiment rather than mitigating any form of racism, based on Shaw’s account.
“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,” Shaw’s letter says.
“Every day, I watch my colleagues manage student conflict through the lens of race, projecting rigid assumptions and stereotypes on students, thereby reducing them to the color of their skin. I am asked to do the same, as well as to support a curriculum for students that teaches them to project those same stereotypes and assumptions onto themselves and others. I believe such a curriculum is dehumanizing, prevents authentic connection, and undermines the moral agency of young people who are just beginning to find their way in the world.”
She said other staffers she spoke to were “deeply troubled” by the developments but were “too terrified to speak out about it.”
In January 2020, Shaw said, she attended a mandatory staff retreat “focused on racial issues.”
She said she wasn’t comfortable answering personal questions from the hired facilitator about race and “racial identity.”
“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,’” she wrote.
“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.”
She filled a workplace complaint, but felt it wasn’t taken seriously enough on account of her race.
“I was told that the civil rights law protections were not created to help people like me,” she wrote.
She was stripped of duties, which she suspected was a retaliation for her filing the complaint.
She blamed the change in environment on critical race theory, a quasi-Marxist ideology that reinterprets history as a struggle between whites and other races, labelling people as “oppressors” and “oppressed” on account of their skin color, echoing Marxism’s division of society based on class.
“Under the guise of racial progress, Smith College has created a racially hostile environment in which individual acts of discrimination and hostility flourish. In this environment, people’s worth as human beings, and the degree to which they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, is determined by the color of their skin,” Shaw said.
“It is an environment in which dissenting from the new critical race orthodoxy—or even failing to swear fealty to it like some kind of McCarthy-era loyalty oath—is grounds for public humiliation and professional retaliation.”
Critical race theory has been spreading through American institutions, starting at universities and seeping into K-12 education, government structures, the non-governmental sector, and the corporate world, commonly through supposedly “anti-racist” training sessions and internal social justice policies.
Former President Donald Trump dealt a significant blow to the ideology’s spread last year when he banned trainings based on the ideology from the federal government, and even federal contractors and some grantees. President Joe Biden, however, reversed the order shortly after taking office.
In Shaw’s view, the ideology exacerbates divisions among people.
“It taps into humanity’s worst instincts to break down into warring factions, and I fear this is rapidly leading us to a very twisted place,” she said.