A white former Smith College staff member, who resigned Friday claiming she had experienced discrimination while working there, said she plans to file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination after the college president denied her claims of a hostile work environment.
“I tried my best to open a line of authentic communication with Smith around this issue for a very long time,” Jodi Shaw, said in an e-mail Tuesday. “I have little expectation that one might open now.”
Smith president Kathleen McCartney denied claims that there is a hostile environment for white employees at the women’s college in a letter Monday to the school community.
McCartney, who did not identify Shaw by name, said that the allegations were untrue and that the employee who resigned had “demanded payment of an exceptionally large sum in exchange for dropping a threatened legal claim and agreeing to standard confidentiality provisions.”
A Smith spokeswoman confirmed that Shaw was a college employee until Friday.
Shaw said she communicated with Smith officials Tuesday about returning to the campus in Northampton to return a laptop and retrieve some personal items. In addition to contacting MCAD, Shaw said she is “organizing a growing group of Smith Alums who are not on board with this toxic ideology at Smith.”
A resignation letter attributed to Shaw was published Friday on a Substack newsletter.
The letter says Shaw is a proud Smith alumna and was initially “over the moon” to work there, but the climate on campus changed after a 2018 incident in which a white staff member called campus police on a Black student who was eating lunch in a common area.
That’s when, according to the letter, “the culture war arrived at our campus.”
The letter says Shaw was pressured at work to talk about issues of race that made her uncomfortable and was humiliated by a workshop facilitator who suggested reluctance to discuss race “is a symptom of ‘white fragility.’” In one instance, Shaw was told she could not deliver a library orientation program because she had planned to perform it as a rap and her supervisor said it could be seen as “cultural appropriation,” according to the letter.
McCartney denied a claim in the published letter that Smith tried to buy Shaw’s silence and said the college is “committed to continuous learning in support of the humanity, worth, and dignity of every member of our community.”
McCartney wrote that “Smith College remains unyielding in its commitment to advancing racial justice, a commitment that includes and benefits every member of our community.”
Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.