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Commitment to Anti-Racism

Smith College School for Social Work students in a circle in a classroom

Since our inception, the Smith College School for Social Work has worked to promote knowledge, values and skills that help students to identify, critically analyze and intervene against the insidious and lethal effects of racism. Our school community fosters respect for diverse worldviews and for each other’s equal place in the world. We believe in the power of self-reflection and in ongoing discussions about how issues of race influence social work practice, research and scholarship.

In 1995, the School for Social Work faculty made a formal commitment to becoming an anti-racism organization. We made this pledge to make explicit our responsibility to learn about and disrupt systems of privilege, inequality and oppression that maintain white supremacy and that reward, punish and silence, based on socially assigned differences.

To bring accountability to our work, we have charged the SSW Anti-Racism Consultation Committee with monitoring the School’s progress toward anti-racism. Composed of students, alumni, faculty and staff, the ARCC meets monthly, setting a course to solicit feedback and perspectives from the SSW community, as well as generating and reviewing relevant data and proposals to ensure that our school is continuously working towards our pledge. Any SSW member is encouraged to consult with members of the ARCC when they see or experience structural racism in our community processes.

In addition to the ARCC, we have developed other important structures to bring our Anti-Racism pledge alive:

In the Anti-Racism monthly meeting, faculty and administrators participate in ongoing learning and discussion about issues of race and racism, as well as our integration of the anti-racism lens in curriculum and organizational processes.

Each year, the SSW appoints a member of the SSW community to be the Marta Sotomayor Fellow. The Fellow serves as an ombudsperson for the School community around issues of institutional racism and oppression and the ways in which they manifest within the educational process. With this position, we honor the contributions of SSW alum Marta Sotomayor, who was the first Latina in the United States to earn a doctorate in social work.  Sotomayor served as the first executive director of the National Hispanic Council on Aging. She brought an unwavering focus to issues of equity and social justice in all that she did.

Pedagogy and Diversity is a weekly teaching group, co-facilitated by the Sotomayor Fellow and a resident faculty member, at which instructors have the opportunity to critically examine and address issues of power, privilege and oppression that emerge within the classroom.

In 2016, the faculty agreed to ongoing training for all SSW instructors, advisers, students and staff members with the Critical Conversations group facilitation model (O'Neill & Kang 2016). This facilitation model provides a structured process for the SSW community to work through tensions that arise when issues of power, privilege and bias emerge in discussions.

We ask all members of our Smith community to join us in this important commitment and our ongoing work.

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