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Smith College Defends Focus On Diversity After Employee Claims Bias Against White Staff

Former Smith College employee Jodi Shaw, who filed a discrimination complaint against the college, has discussed her claims in more than a dozen YouTube videos.
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Jodi Shaw's YouTube channel
Former Smith College employee Jodi Shaw, who filed a discrimination complaint against the college, has discussed her claims in more than a dozen YouTube videos.

A former Smith College employee says she has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination charging a hostile environment for white people on campus.

Jodi Shaw, who worked in the student support office, has gotten national attention over the last few months for her accusations against the college.

Shaw’s 19-page complaint to the commission, which she posted on her website, criticizes staff diversity training.

“The college expends vast amounts of energy and resources creating and executing initiatives aimed at convincing staff…that white people are inherently racist by virtue of their skin color [and] have inherent power and privilege over all others regardless of context,” reads the complaint.

In February, Shaw posted her resignation letter on a conservative blog and claimed Smith offered to pay her off for her silence.

In a public response, Smith's president, Kathleen McCartney said – in fact – Shaw demanded money from the college. McCartney denied the accusations of race-based intimidation.

“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," McCartney wrote. "The aim of our equity and inclusion training is never to shame or ostracize.”

Shaw’s complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, which she said was sent February 24, traces a “hostile environment” to an event in July 2018. An employee was accused of racial discrimination for calling campus police on a Black student in a building the employee believed was closed. A Smith investigation later found no evidence of bias.

In a statement March 3, Kathleen McCartney said she would not revisit the 2018 incident but that “many studies prove how bias, whether explicit or implicit, operates — and can lead to racial profiling.”

A Smith spokesperson declined to comment on the commission complaint, as it is pending litigation.

Shaw has raised about $300,000 dollars online for what she calls "legal and living expenses." With money she raises beyond $150,000, she said, "I would like to help others exercise their right to be free from a hostile work environment."

Karen is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998. Her features and documentaries have won a number of national awards, including the National Edward R. Murrow Award, Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) Award, Third Coast Audio Festival Award, and the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize.
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