Jodi Shaw packs it in at Smith

February 20, 2021 • 1:00 pm

I’ve written several times about the plight of Jodi Shaw (here, here, here, and here), the Smith College employee who was demonized and then investigated by her employer because she would not participate in a racial “struggle session” that involved sharing personal details and feelings that she wasn’t comfortable in divulging. As I wrote earlier on:

Shaw had a beef with the College for forcing her to undergo mandatory training in what seems like critical race theory, and in which she was humiliated by the facilitator for her “white fragility”. Kathleen McCartney, the President of Smith, then responded to Shaw’s first video with a cold-hearted letter to the entire College saying, in effect, something like, “Well, we can’t fire Shaw because of the law, but we’ll ensure that all students of color are protected from harm.”

The expected pile-on began after Shaw, single mother of two, an alumna of Smith, and a liberal, began making a series of calm yet determined videos about what she experienced at Smith. The racial divisiveness of the College apparently went far beyond that one “struggle session.” According to Shaw, that atmosphere permeates Smith, is toxic, and was originally set off by a complaint of racism that proved to be bogus. (Isn’t it ironic that policies designed to foster diversity and inclusion often wind up being non-inclusive and creating greater division?)

Shaw was then investigated by Smith, which put her on leave for making her colleagues feel “harmed”, presumably by making the videos that constitute free expression (see Shaw’s explanation here). Shaw filed a long complaint with Smith, to which she received no reply.

I predicted that Shaw wouldn’t last long at Smith, and, sure enough, as Bari Weiss recounts in a post at her own Substack site, Shaw has parted ways with Smith, rejecting a settlement.

Bari reproduces Shaw’s letter of resignation to Smith’s President, and I’ll reproduce it here, too:

Dear President McCartney:

I am writing to notify you that effective today, I am resigning from my position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life at Smith College. This has not been an easy decision, as I now face a deeply uncertain future. As a divorced mother of two, the economic uncertainty brought about by this resignation will impact my children as well. But I have no choice. The racially hostile environment that the college has subjected me to for the past two and a half years has left me physically and mentally debilitated. I can no longer work in this environment, nor can I remain silent about a matter so central to basic human dignity and freedom.

I graduated from Smith College in 1993. Those four years were among the best in my life. Naturally, I was over the moon when, years later, I had the opportunity to join Smith as a staff member. I loved my job and I loved being back at Smith.

But the climate — and my place at the college — changed dramatically when, in July 2018, the culture war arrived at our campus when a student accused a white staff member of calling campus security on her because of racial bias. The student, who is black, shared her account of this incident widely on social media, drawing a lot of attention to the college.

Before even investigating the facts of the incident, the college immediately issued a public apology to the student, placed the employee on leave, and announced its intention to create new initiatives, committees, workshops, trainings, and policies aimed at combating “systemic racism” on campus.

In spite of an independent investigation into the incident that found no evidence of racial bias [JAC: Smith’s own investigation showed no bias, either], the college ramped up its initiatives aimed at dismantling the supposed racism that pervades the campus. This only served to support the now prevailing narrative that the incident had been racially motivated and that Smith staff are racist.

Allowing this narrative to dominate has had a profound impact on the Smith community and on me personally. For example, in August 2018, just days before I was to present a library orientation program into which I had poured a tremendous amount of time and effort, and which had previously been approved by my supervisors, I was told that I could not proceed with the planned program. Because it was going to be done in rap form and “because you are white,” as my supervisor told me, that could be viewed as “cultural appropriation.” My supervisor made clear he did not object to a rap in general, nor to the idea of using music to convey orientation information to students. The problem was my skin color.

I was up for a full-time position in the library at that time, and I was essentially informed that my candidacy for that position was dependent upon my ability, in a matter of days, to reinvent a program to which I had devoted months of time.

Humiliated, and knowing my candidacy for the full-time position was now dead in the water, I moved into my current, lower-paying position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life.

As it turned out, my experience in the library was just the beginning. In my new position, I was told on multiple occasions that discussing my personal thoughts and feelings about my skin color is a requirement of my job. I endured racially hostile comments, and was expected to participate in racially prejudicial behavior as a continued condition of my employment. I endured meetings in which another staff member violently banged his fist on the table, chanting “Rich, white women! Rich, white women!” in reference to Smith alumnae. I listened to my supervisor openly name preferred racial quotas for job openings in our department. I was given supplemental literature in which the world’s population was reduced to two categories — “dominant group members” and “subordinated group members” — based solely on characteristics like race.

Every day, I watch my colleagues manage student conflict through the lens of race, projecting rigid assumptions and stereotypes on students, thereby reducing them to the color of their skin. I am asked to do the same, as well as to support a curriculum for students that teaches them to project those same stereotypes and assumptions onto themselves and others. I believe such a curriculum is dehumanizing, prevents authentic connection, and undermines the moral agency of young people who are just beginning to find their way in the world.

Although I have spoken to many staff and faculty at the college who are deeply troubled by all of this, they are too terrified to speak out about it. This illustrates the deeply hostile and fearful culture that pervades Smith College.

The last straw came in January 2020, when I attended a mandatory Residence Life staff retreat focused on racial issues. The hired facilitators asked each member of the department to respond to various personal questions about race and racial identity. When it was my turn to respond, I said “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that.” I was the only person in the room to abstain.

Later, the facilitators told everyone present that a white person’s discomfort at discussing their race is a symptom of “white fragility.” They said that the white person may seem like they are in distress, but that it is actually a “power play.” In other words, because I am white, my genuine discomfort was framed as an act of aggression. I was shamed and humiliated in front of all of my colleagues.

I filed an internal complaint about the hostile environment, but throughout that process, over the course of almost six months, I felt like my complaint was taken less seriously because of my race. I was told that the civil rights law protections were not created to help people like me. And after I filed my complaint, I started to experience retaliatory behavior, like having important aspects of my job taken away without explanation.

Under the guise of racial progress, Smith College has created a racially hostile environment in which individual acts of discrimination and hostility flourish. In this environment, people’s worth as human beings, and the degree to which they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, is determined by the color of their skin. It is an environment in which dissenting from the new critical race orthodoxy — or even failing to swear fealty to it like some kind of McCarthy-era loyalty oath — is grounds for public humiliation and professional retaliation.

I can no longer continue to work in an environment where I am constantly subjected to additional scrutiny because of my skin color. I can no longer work in an environment where I am told, publicly, that my personal feelings of discomfort under such scrutiny are not legitimate but instead are a manifestation of white supremacy. Perhaps most importantly, I can no longer work in an environment where I am expected to apply similar race-based stereotypes and assumptions to others, and where I am told — when I complain about having to engage in what I believe to be discriminatory practices — that there are “legitimate reasons for asking employees to consider race” in order to achieve the college’s “social justice objectives.”

What passes for “progressive” today at Smith and at so many other institutions is regressive. It taps into humanity’s worst instincts to break down into warring factions, and I fear this is rapidly leading us to a very twisted place. It terrifies me that others don’t seem to see that racial segregation and demonization are wrong and dangerous no matter what its victims look like. Being told that any disagreement or feelings of discomfort somehow upholds “white supremacy” is not just morally wrong. It is psychologically abusive.

Equally troubling are the many others who understand and know full well how damaging this is, but do not speak out due to fear of professional retaliation, social censure, and loss of their livelihood and reputation. I fear that by the time people see it, or those who see it manage to screw up the moral courage to speak out, it will be too late.

I wanted to change things at Smith. I hoped that by bringing an internal complaint, I could somehow get the administration to see that their capitulation to critical race orthodoxy was causing real, measurable harm. When that failed, I hoped that drawing public attention to these problems at Smith would finally awaken the administration to this reality. I have come to conclude, however, that the college is so deeply committed to this toxic ideology that the only way for me to escape the racially hostile climate is to resign. It is completely unacceptable that we are now living in a culture in which one must choose between remaining in a racially hostile, psychologically abusive environment or giving up their income.

As a proud Smith alum, I know what a critical role this institution has played in shaping my life and the lives of so many women for one hundred and fifty years. I want to see this institution be the force for good I know it can be. I will not give up fighting against the dangerous pall of orthodoxy that has descended over Smith and so many of our educational institutions.

This was an extremely difficult decision for me and comes at a deep personal cost. I make $45,000 a year; less than a year’s tuition for a Smith student. I was offered a settlement in exchange for my silence, but I turned it down. My need to tell the truth — and to be the kind of woman Smith taught me to be — makes it impossible for me to accept financial security at the expense of remaining silent about something I know is wrong. My children’s future, and indeed, our collective future as a free nation, depends on people having the courage to stand up to this dangerous and divisive ideology, no matter the cost.

Sincerely,

Jodi Shaw

Weiss ends the piece with her own take (below), which is the same as mine, and links to Shaw’s video asking that the anti-white racism she perceived at Smith be stopped.

What is happening is wrong. Any ideology that asks people to judge others based on their skin color is wrong. Any ideology that asks us to reduce ourselves and others to racial stereotypes is wrong. Any ideology that treats dissent as evidence of bigotry is wrong. Any ideology that denies our common humanity is wrong. You should say so. Just like Jodi Shaw has.

If you would like to help support Jodi with her legal fees during this time — and I hope you do — here is her GoFundMe.

“Diversity and Inclusion” initiatives—”D&I”, as they’re called—may be good at the “D”, but they’re lousy at the “I”. Not only was Shaw was not included, but she was in effect booted out, “excluded.” As far as I can see, Smith was not only never supportive of Shaw, but from the outset sought to push her out of the college. They’ve succeeded. But they have not succeeded at muzzling Shaw, and it’s telling that they offered her money if she would shut up about the College when she left. Now why would they do that?  Bad publicity, of course?

Shaw rejected the offer. I wish her luck.

45 thoughts on “Jodi Shaw packs it in at Smith

  1. Caveat: I don’t litigate employment cases, so maybe I’m way off base here. But this sounds to me like a GREAT constructive termination case. She should consult a lawyer who does specialize in such cases ASAP.

    1. It would be here in Canada but Americans have that “at will” employee thing and I don’t know if that gets in the way. It certainly is a human rights violation and I hope it can be litigated in the US that way as I’m sure it would help others in these hostile environments.

        1. Yeah in some states. I don’t know how it all works. I only learned bout it here in WEIT when Americans told me about it.

          1. In the UK this would be similarly termed “constructive dismissal” where someone leaves a job because the employer has made it impossible to carry on. Firstly, there is clear racial discrimination at work, which is illegal here, but it isn’t necessary as it would also be illegal to discriminate on basis of her political beliefs provided they didn’t interfere with her job. It has been established by a legal precedent, I believe would apply here, that these beliefs don’t have to be precise political ones. After all Critical Race Theory is basically a political belief. The USA needs proper human rights legislation for employees!

          2. Yes, private employees in the US are generally “at will.” Smith College may, however, have an employee handbook that affords employees certain contractual rights. Plus, civil-rights statutes and ordinances generally prohibit the termination of employees for particular prohibited reasons such as race, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, handicap, etc.

            So “Brujo Feo” may be correct that Ms. Shaw may have a cause of action for “constructive termination” (assuming she did not waive it in declining the offered settlement) — though, like him, I never litigated employment cases, so you can take my analysis on this with a grain of salt.

            1. Ken,

              I usually agree with you on matters of law, but here we part ways. If Jodi Shaw had accepted the settlement she probably would have been required, as part of the deal, to waive any claim of wrongful termination. But how would refusing to settle waive the claim? The entire point of not settling is that you remain free to pursue damage claims.

              1. David,

                I didn’t mean to suggest that merely by declining a settlement, Ms. Shaw would have necessarily waived any remedies. As you point out, declining the settlement would have been necessary to preserving her right to sue. The point I was trying to get at was that as part of process of turning down the offer of a settlement, she may have signed some agreement (or made some statement or done some act) that could be construed as a de facto waiver of her right to sue.

                I do not know the precise circumstances of Ms. Shaw’s departure, so have no idea whether she did. I was simply assuming for the sake of argument that she had NOT done anything to waive that right, in pointing out that she may have a viable cause of action.

      1. Diana: again, no specialist here, but as I understand it, the layman’s expression (even with “at will”) is that you can fire someone for “any reason or no reason, but NOT for a wrong reason.”

        The advantage for someone (and I mean a specialist) trying to figure out if she’s got a good case is that all of this played out so publicly, and in writing (and recordings). For that same reason (and this in response to Mark Sturtevant, below), it may be that the litigation would not be as onerous as it might be if there were more of a factual dispute.

        1. That’s also my understanding. (I’m not a lawyer.) Of course, it’s a state by state thing.

          On the other hand, I would worry about her legal prospects after quitting rather than being terminated. It doesn’t sound like she was really forced to leave. It sounds like she didn’t like the way the college defined her job, something they have the right to do. The racial angle may come into play but it might be hard to claim racial discrimination for being white, given today’s climate.

          Even though I am downplaying her legal avenues, her treatment was definitely unfair and ridiculously so.

            1. Hostile work environment?

              Agree. Repeated, unwanted comments regarding someone’s race or calling them racist should count as harassment….even if it’s “official policy” or “training” rather than some individual employee doing it on their own recognizance.

              All IMO, of course.

    2. She has a facebook page and you can also write to her. If you are a lawyer and know specifically someone who can help her, Why not let her know?

      1. I can’t see anything happening legally unless she gets someone to represent her pro bono. US has at-will employment, so no lawyer will take it on contingency and hope to get paid.

        That’s how it works for 99% of people who are not in a very fortunate situation; for example, represented by a union or tenured or in civil service or in a highly regulated profession or so in demand that an employer will sign an employment agreement that has real employee protections. For the rest of us, “at will” really does mean no recourse.

        Even if her GoFundMe raises $1 million, going after the College legally would almost certainly be money down the drain. Maybe billionaire Peter Thiel who funded the libel suit that bankrupted Gawker Media might be interested.

  2. The last straw, as Ms. Shaw describes it, came from her session with “hired facilitators”. It is the alliance between these hustlers and academic administrations—invariably managed through the
    ubiquitous offices, deanships, and committees of D/E/I—that are converting our ivory towers into
    little replicas of East Germany. It is time for a sociological study of the curious process that has brought this about without more than minimal supervision by the state, and no STASI—other than the
    many amateur STASIs helpfully organized by members of the academic institutions themselves.

  3. This whole episode needs to be broadcast far and wide. Smith’s name needs to be dragged through the mud it has itself produced by its commitment to racialism, and the *mindlessness* with which it’s jumped on the bandwagon of identity politics. Its current president is effectively a charlatan, and in a just world would never again find employment in academia.

    Vindictiveness isn’t the most worthy attitude—but I want, *badly*, to see some serious punishment for McCartney and the other woke hacks at Smith, down the road if not in the near future.

  4. And people wonder how white people end up moving to the right. Think about if Shaw did not hold three values she holds. Think about what could happen if she didn’t believe deeply that it is wrong to reduce people to stereotypes and just automatically did so. She wouldn’t be getting in line with the people at her school, she’d be joining up with alt-right groups.

    1. Exactly, this is how liberals shoot themselves in the foot. If not the mouth. I have no doubt that Trump did as well as he did in the election because of people who see the democrats as holding the kinds of views exhibited by Smith College.

  5. Dr. Coyne linked to her Go Fund Me page. She is a divorced mother of 2 children who earned $45,000/yr, as you may know.

    I looked through it and see that she also accepts checks to this address:

    Jodi Shaw

    Suite B-249

    351 Pleasant Street

    Northampton, MA 01060

  6. I see that Ms. Shaw’s GoFundMe has already raised about $150,000 — three years’ salary — and the donations are coming in even as I watch it. So she at least should be fine. One hopes that her eloquent words will help protect others in her position. All this makes me (yet again) glad I’ve always been self-employed.

    1. I posted a donation at 1010R 21.FEB and see that there’s a notice that GoFundMe has locked the funds for “an ideological reason”. The Dark Side Of The Force may have found another way to damage her.

        1. I can guess what we’re all probably thinking. GoFundMe is a business that must worry about its reputation with the Woke. They can’t be going around collecting funds for “racists” lest they be cancelled themselves. I’m sure there are lots of other similar platforms that would be glad to take their place. It’s a sad world we live in.

  7. She refused a settlement in exchange for silence, which I read to mean it included a non-disclosure agreement. Isn’t it a hint that if you refuse one of those things, that is b/c you are planning to “lawyer up”?
    I say this not b/c I see her as an opportunist. Quite the opposite! Going thru litigation will be far tougher and more stressful than her recent employment.

  8. I donated and commented:

    Wokeness is bad. Not only is it morally wrong, but some will decide that going to the other side is the lesser of two evils.

    The answer to racism is not reverse racism, but remembering Martin Luther King saying that skin colour should be as irrelevant as eye colour.

    I think those who should check their privilege are those whose parents can afford a tuition which is more than an annual salary.

    1. I came across a phrase the other day (on PJMedia of all places) that called out Wokeness as being “morally grotesque”. That struck me as particularly appropriate.

      Grotesque:
      1) Distorted and unnatural in shape or size; abnormal and hideous
      2) Ludicrously odd

      Either works for me, and it seems that a synonym “monstrous” is becoming more appropriate every day.

  9. Recent Tweet by Jodi Shaw: “GoFundMe has placed my fundraiser under review and there is now a hold on *all* funds. I fear it is for ideological reasons. If so, it shows what we are up against.”

    We’re getting pretty used to Big Tech deciding to deny service to people who criticise the Woke. We need to regulate Big Tech such that near-monopoly platforms are politically neutral.

    1. In addition to my donation to Jody, I also donated to GoFundMe.

      Will they put the latter donation, obviously inspired by the former, on hold as well?

      What happens to the money if the review is negative? Do we get it refunded?

      I had been thinking about suggesting GoFundMe for other good projects. There must be some alternative. She mentions PayPal, but I think that there have been cases of PayPal refusing to handle funds for certain causes.

      If my GoFundMe donation gets refunded, I’ll try to get some money to her some other way. If they don’t forward my donation to her but keep my donation to them, that is unforgivable.

      Life is too short for me to follow Twitter. I hope that I can stay up to date here.

      1. Your money would be refunded. That will not be a problem. I donated via before the funds got locked, but just sent a lesser amount via PayPal, which I do trust. But, good to know there is a post office address, too.

    2. The problem might be due to the “legal fees” aspect of her GoFundMe appeal – the platform’s policy on this seems to have changed several times in recent years.

  10. Smith College seems to be headed toward an unhappy state where, for all speech, that which you are not allowed to say, you are required to say. Actually, I think it is there already.

  11. Very best wishes to Jodi Shaw – her calm and dignified manner and principled stand in difficult circumstances are truly admirable.

  12. Isn’t it racist/discriminatory to accuse a person of having “white fragility”?

    “Later, the facilitators told everyone present that a white person’s discomfort at discussing their race is a symptom of “white fragility.” They said that the white person may seem like they are in distress, but that it is actually a “power play.” In other words, because I am white, my genuine discomfort was framed as an act of aggression. I was shamed and humiliated in front of all of my colleagues.”

    Very Orwellian.

    The “facilitators” (that is wonderfully Orwell) are making the base assumption that white person’s white skin makes them a member of the “white race”. I would dispute that as being a racist assumption in the first instance. Then I would very likely dispute the use of the word “race” used at all by any of the “facilitators”.

    Skin colour doesn’t define race any more than eye colour does.

    Discomfort can mean an awareness that a subject is “touchy”: it doesn’t however presuppose any particular predefined position.

  13. I have been quietly following the story here on WEIT. This is a very sad development that Ms. Shaw feels forced to resign.

    I am not familiar with US law, but is there a chance that a law firm would take the case for free? Would this case even be accepted by an US-court?

    Any clarification is welcome

  14. What a nightmare, only there is no chance of waking up here. On the contrary, the ‘Go Fund Me’ saga makes it worse. Kafka-esque.
    I’m sure these kinds of horrible stories are empowering the Alt-Right.

  15. It’s now possible that all you have to do to destroy someone’s life is falsely accuse them of being a racist. I think I may have posted this in the past, but there is a good documentary called “No Safe Spaces” in which chilling video of a Jewish professor is displayed in which black student’s call him “disgusting” for not participating in a “Day of Absence” in which whites were banned from campus. It’s notable that for some groups such as Jews, Arabs or those from the Near East, or Southern/Eastern Europeans, simply having a light complexion does not mean that you or your family had an easy, wealthy, harassment free history. We’ve created an environment in which full blown “witch hunts” can destroy an individual whom a few people don’t like. I agree that these policies are DISASTROUS for peace and inclusiveness, and in fact, foster more division and resentment. My guess is that whites who might otherwise have been sympathetic to the plight of blacks in this country are now being pushed further and further right The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there is no “pushback” against cancel culture or anti-white racism (which is still racism – even though the target is alleged to be privileged.)

    In any case, this is a very sad time for higher education in general, for a great many reasons.

Leave a Reply