Study Finds School Must Address Racism, Other Kinds of Discrimination
Smith College must address problems of racism, class stratification and other types of discrimination, according to a college-commissioned study published last week.
In the survey conducted for the study, many responding students, faculty, staff and administrators said they were concerned by discriminatory attitudes on the Northhampton campus.
"Respondents repeatedly referred to the 'Smith fit,"' and to the "Smith profile as `elitist', `wasp', and `gleaming white,"' the report stated.
"Smith for a long time was making a big mistake by saying that we didn't have a problem," said senior Lisa Lauterbach, president of the school's Student Senate. The study, conducted by Equity Institute, Inc. of Amherst "brought it into the open," she said.
Smith has hired the consulting firm for three years to help the college confront its racial and class problems with seminars and discussion groups that have already begun, said Dr. Carole Johnson, Equity's program development director.
Of the 4064 people in the Smith community, only 788, or 19 percent, responded to the survey. When asked if they had ever experienced "insensitive behavior" concerning race, 41 percent of the students, 18 percent of the faculty, 33 percent of the staff, and 20 percent of the administrators responded affirmatively.
While the investigation into campus perceptions was prompted by a racial slur spray painted on a campus building last spring, the study uncovered other kinds of prejudice that some people fear will overshadow the issue of racism.
"As a staff member, I am more concerned with the elitist attitude and condescending actions of some professors and some staff members and some students toward myself in my employee level. I may hold a service-type job, but I am not a 'servant,'" one respondent wrote.
Smith minority student representatives said they feel that racism is the most pressing of these issues. "We feel that top administrators at Smith whose responsibility it is to make and enforce policies have failed to acknowledge our plight and to take it seriously," the representatives said in a press conference Wednesday. UMASS BOSTON
Presentation of Awards to Faculty Postponed Because All Are White Men
University of Massachusetts President David C. Knapp has indefinitely postponed ceremonies to present public service awards to members of the university's faculty and staff because all five chosen recipients are white men.
Knapp's decision last week to cancel the November 20 presentation event followed an editorial in the Boston Globe which was critical of the nominating process, which resulted in the selection of no women or minorities, The Associated Press reported.
In a letter to university officials explaining his decision, Knapp said that, despite their selections, the eight men on the selection committee were sensitive in their deliberations to the issues raised in the Globe editorial.
Massacusetts Chancellor of Higher Education Franklyn G. Jennifer blamed the exclusion of women and minority award finalists on their lack of representation on the faculties of the state's 27 colleges, The Associated Press reported.
The winners selected had included Scott A. Bass, director of the university's Gerontology Institute, Stephen Coelen, director of the Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Research, James E. Dalen, chairman of the Department of Medicine, Robert G. Light, associate director of the Massacusetts Cooperative Extension Service, and Joseph S. Slavet, director of the Boston Urban Observatory. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
President to Decide on Discipline For Students who Broadcast Racial Slur
University of Michigan President Harold Shapiro will decide early next week if disciplinary action will be taken against two students for racial slurs they made during a campus radio talk show last February.
Senior Ted Sevransky, a disc jockey for WJJX, and his sophomore friend Peter Gonzalez, arranged for Gonzalez to call in with racist jokes during Sevransky's talk show. WJJX fired Sevransky, but the university took no disciplinary action against the two last year.
The WJJX controversy was but one in a series of recent events which reflect the tension between students and administration over the treatment of minorities at Michigan, said Bruce Belcher, student general council for the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA).
Belcher said that MSA feels the university doesn't care about racism, and will refuse to accept the legitimacy of any action taken by the administration against Gonzalez and Sevransky.
"We feel that action against the individuals involved should be taken in a court of law, not a kangaroo court run by university administrators who want to give academic sanctions to persons involved in criminal acts," Belcher said.
Incidents of discrimination have continued to plague the Michigan campus this fall.
Last month, several students held a scavenger hunt which allegedly awarded points for tearing down posters announcing activities for the campus' United Coalition Against Racism, Belcher said.
And in the last week, seven incidents of physical assault of homosexuals have been reported, said Henry Johnson, Michigan vice president for student services.
"We have no explanation for the growing number of troubling incidents. You get one instance getting publicity and people of the same persuasion pick up on it. The result is a snowball effect," Johnson said.
Johnson said that racial problems are not endemic to Michigan, but one student involved with Minority Student Services said racial tension at Michigan is exacerbated by students' fear that the university's high academic standards will fall as more minorities enroll.
"Students I talk to believe that as Michigan continues to enlarge its minority enrollment, standards will be lowered. It's pitiful, because minorities are saying the same thing," said Michael Dashner.