Former employee accuses Smith College president of ‘a mischaracterization’ to settle her discrimination allegations; Smith ‘flatly denies’ wrongdoing


NORTHAMPTON – A Smith College employee that resigned Friday, alleging a hostile work environment involving racial discrimination — objectifying her appearance as a Caucasian — has accused the college president of misconstruing settlement discussions.

The ex-employee has alleged that a written statement from Smith College President Kathleen McCartney — that was released Monday afternoon — “is a mischaracterization of my conversations with Smith.”

Asked on Tuesday if they had any comment on Shaw’s statement that McCartney’s expressions were a mischaracterization, the college, in an email, said: “The college stands behind President McCartney’s February 22 letter. Beyond that, we do not comment on potential or pending litigation.”

In the Feb. 22 letter, McCartney said the college “flatly denies” the former employee’s “baseless claim.”

The former employee, Jodi Shaw, said the alleged mischaracterization is “one I feel is critical to address in light of the trust people have placed in me and the generous support I have received from so many since my resignation.”

“I resigned in lieu of accepting a generous settlement from the college that would have, like all settlements, required confidentiality,” the former employee, Shaw said in a written statement Monday night.

According to Shaw, “After I went public in October with my complaints about the hostile working environment at Smith, the college made clear to me that they would like me to accept a severance and leave. I offered to accept a severance only if Smith would take meaningful steps to end the racially hostile environment by ending their mandatory race-based struggle sessions and their requirements that employees judge each other and the students in our care on the basis of their skin color. Smith quickly made clear to me that they would not consider such changes. The ideology would stay. Only a financial settlement with the college was possible.”

Shaw’s statement from Monday night says that Smith College “offered me enough money to make myself and my two children comfortable for a time, but not to do what I need to do for this cause that I am so committed to. I strongly considered accepting Smith’s offer, given my financial situation and the toll the hostile work environment has had on my health. But I turned it down. The importance of telling the truth and, I hope, urging others to do the same wasn’t worth the price.”

The Republican had reached out to the college for comment over the weekend and on Monday, for comment about Shaw’s accusations, and asked the institution in particular about any settlement involving her.

Monday afternoon, McCartney issued a one-page statement, denying Shaw’s allegation.

“The employee suggests that Smith tried to buy her silence. But it was the employee herself who demanded payment of an exceptionally large sum in exchange for dropping a threatened legal claim and agreeing to standard confidentiality provisions,” McCartney wrote.

McCartney’s Monday statement said that “the former employee, in her letter” published on Friday, Feb. 19, announcing her resignation “accuses the college of creating a racially hostile environment for white people, a baseless claim that the college flatly denies.”

McCartney, in the statement that is published on the school website, wrote: “At Smith College, our commitment to, and strategies for, advancing equity and inclusion are grounded in evidence. Research demonstrates the continued presence of systemic discrimination against people of color across all areas of society, from education to health care to employment. Redressing the reality of racism requires asking ourselves how we might, even inadvertently, reinforce existing inequalities or contribute to an exclusionary atmosphere. While it might be uncomfortable to accept that each of us, regardless of color or background, may have absorbed unconscious biases or at times acted in ways that are harmful to members of our community, such self-reflection is a prerequisite for making meaningful progress. The aim of our equity and inclusion training is never to shame or ostracize. Rather, the goal is to facilitate authentic conversations that help to overcome the barriers between us, and the college welcomes constructive criticism of our workshops and trainings.”

In rebuttal, Shaw also wrote: “I knew this was going to be an ugly process, and I’m sure this is not the last attempt Smith will make to discredit me. It seems that facts do not matter to Smith; what matters to Smith is its commitment to destructive race-based policies. I look forward to seeing Smith in court.”


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