Smith College affirms that diversity in all aspects of the educational environment is necessary to achieve the highest level of academic excellence. As a central element of its commitment to this excellence, the college seeks to maintain an environment that is free of conduct that unreasonably interferes with the academic and professional experience of any member of its community.
Consistent with this commitment, the college complies with all relevant federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination in education, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs.
The college is committed to creating an educational environment that is open to all individuals without discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, national origin/ancestry, religion, sex or gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, genetic information, or veteran status/membership in the uniformed services.
This Equal Educational Opportunity policy provides procedures that will be used when a college student believes that they have experienced discrimination by a staff or faculty member, in violation of the college’s policies and procedures related to nondiscrimination. The policy does NOT cover allegations of sexual harassment, complaints of employment discrimination, or grade disputes. For sexual harassment complaints, please see the college’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. For allegations of discrimination in employment practices, please see the college’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy. Grade disputes are governed by the college’s Grade Dispute Policy.
Prohibition of Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment
This policy prohibits discrimination, including harassment in educational practices or programs by any community member that teaches, educates or otherwise provides course support for students (e.g., faculty, lab instructors, coaches).
Discrimination, under this policy, is treatment of a student based on their age, race, color, national origin/ancestry, religion, sex or gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, genetic information, or veteran status/membership in the uniformed services that adversely affects their ability to access or participate in an educational opportunity at the college.
Under this policy, discriminatory harassment, a form of discrimination, is unwelcome conduct directed toward a person based on one or more of the following categories age, race, color, national origin/ancestry, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, genetic information or veteran status/membership in the uniformed services. Discriminatory harassment violates college policy when the conduct is severe, persistent or pervasive such that it interferes with an individual’s college experience by creating a hostile environment.
Discriminatory harassment is unwelcome verbal, written or physical conduct based on a person's actual or perceived race, color or national origin or other protected status that substantially or unreasonably interferes with an individual's academic performance, adversely affects the targeted individual's or others' learning opportunities or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
Examples of such conduct:
- offensive or degrading remarks, verbal abuse, or other hostile behavior such as insulting, teasing, mocking, degrading, or ridiculing another person or group;
- racial slurs, derogatory remarks about a person’s accent, or displaying racially offensive symbols;
- unwelcome or inappropriate physical contact, comments, questions, advances, jokes, epithets, or demands;
- physical assault or stalking;
- displays or electronic transmission of derogatory, demeaning or hostile materials.
Commitment to Academic Freedom
As an academic institution, teaching, conducting research and learning are protected by “academic freedom” as described in the college’s Statement on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression. Actions or words used in the context of the academic curriculum and teaching environment that serve legitimate and reasonable educational purposes, as relevant to the principles underlying academic freedom, will not be evaluated as discrimination or discriminatory harassment.
Equal Educational Opportunity Complaint Procedures
The college applies the following guidelines and procedures for the resolution of complaints alleging violations of this policy.
To promote mutual trust, learning and understanding, students are encouraged to address matters through informal resolution, although they are not required to do so. The college encourages open and honest communication between members of its community. Often differences can be resolved by communication between the relevant parties. Further, the pursuit of an informal resolution does not prevent the student from submitting a formal grievance if informal resolution fails.
Students are encouraged to discuss the matter with the community member with whom the underlying dispute concerns. The relevant department chair, the student’s academic dean, or School for Social Work designee may help with informal resolutions. These persons are prepared to assist with the assessment of a concern and to explain the options and resources available for resolving and redressing concerns. Questions are encouraged; merely discussing an incident in this way does not commit an individual to making a complaint. Discussions aimed at informal resolution must remain confidential and generally last for no more than seven (7) working days.
The matter will be considered resolved when there is an agreed-upon resolution acceptable to all parties. If no resolution results, the student should consult their academic dean or, in the case of the School for Social Work, the associate dean of academic affairs. If the student feels that no satisfactory resolution has been made, the student may file a formal complaint.
A student may initiate a formal complaint by contacting the associate provost and dean for academic development, the director of equal opportunity and compliance, the vice president for equity and inclusion, or, in the case of the Social for Social Work, the associate dean of academic affairs. In all cases, the college will respond to reports of violations of this policy in a prompt, fair and impartial manner. In the interests of ensuring that investigations are done in an effective manner, students are encouraged to make complaints immediately after the conduct complained of occurs. Complaints should be brought no later than 180 days after the end of the student’s participation in the affected course or educational program.
For the purposes of this policy, the person who reports that they have been subjected to discrimination based on their protected status, or is the subject of such a report shall be referred to as the “Complainant.” The person against whom the complaint is filed shall be referred to as the “Respondent.”
When the college receives a formal complaint, it will promptly investigate the allegation in a fair and expeditious manner. Every effort will be made to proceed while maintaining confidentiality to the extent practicable under the circumstances. If it is determined that this policy has been violated, the college will act to eliminate the offending conduct and, where appropriate, will impose disciplinary action. All college community members who have responsibility for investigating, addressing, or redressing claims of discrimination or discriminatory harassment under this policy, including determining the applicability of academic freedom or freedom of expression, shall receive yearly training.
To file a formal complaint, the student should inform the Office for Equity and Inclusion of their intent to file a formal complaint. Within seven (7) calendar days of this notice, the student should submit a written complaint to the director of equal opportunity and compliance. The written complaint should document and describe the alleged discriminatory conduct, how that conduct violated this policy, the evidence supporting the alleged violation, and a description of the redress sought by the complainant.
Upon the receipt of a complaint, the director of equal opportunity and compliance (“Director”) and the associate provost and dean for academic development, shall together review complaints involving faculty and the director and associate vice president of human resources will review complaints involving staff. The purpose of this initial assessment is to determine whether, on its face, it alleges an actionable violation of the policy or whether the alleged conduct that is the subject of the complaint falls under another college policy (i.e. the college’s Statement of Academic Freedom). If the Director and the dean for academic development or the associate vice president of human resources are unable to agree upon whether to proceed with an investigation, the vice president for equity and inclusion shall make the determination. Where the dispute concerns whether the speech or expression complained of is protected under the terms of the Statement on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression, the vice president for equity and inclusion shall consult with a designated representative of the Academic Freedom Committee.
This determination of whether an investigation will proceed shall be completed within seven (7) working days of the filing of the complaint.
The complaint shall be shared with the Respondent immediately after the conclusion of the initial assessment along with a reminder of the college’s prohibition of retaliation under this policy.
Complaints under this policy typically will be investigated by the director of equal opportunity and compliance. The director of equal opportunity and compliance, however, may designate an investigator, including retaining an outside investigator or another administrator or faculty member who is trained to investigate claims of discrimination.
The investigator will promptly investigate the matter so that a finding will be issued within 60 calendar days of the filing of the complaint. If the investigation cannot be completed within 60 days, the Complainant and Respondent will be informed of the status of the investigation, including an anticipated timeline for completion.
The investigator will serve as a neutral fact-finder. The investigation will consist of (but will not necessarily be limited to) interviews of the Complainant, the Respondent, and other individuals who may have witnessed the reported incident or incidents. When the investigator has completed the investigation, the outcome of the investigation will be shared with the Complainant and the Respondent. The findings may also be shared with other college administrators on a need-to-know basis and to the extent appropriate at the discretion of the investigator and in consultation with appropriate college administrators.
If the investigator finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, a violation of this policy by a faculty respondent, the matter will be referred to the provost and dean of faculty or, in the case of the School for Social Work, the school’s dean for further action and to determine appropriate remedial actions. For staff and other non-faculty respondents, a finding of a violation of this policy will be referred to human resources for further action and to determine appropriate remedial actions. Such actions may include written warnings, required counseling, probation, termination or other remedial measures.
A confidential record of all complaints, including their disposition, will be maintained by the Office for Equity and Inclusion.
The college will not tolerate retaliation against an individual for filing a complaint or for assisting in the investigation of a complaint. Retaliation is defined as taking or attempting adverse action against a person or group because that person or group participated in a good faith report or investigation under this procedure whether as a grievant, respondent, witness, administrator or in any other role. Retaliation can be committed by any individual or group of individuals, not just the Complainant or Respondent. Retaliation can take many forms, including threats, intimidation, bullying, assault, physical harm, emotional abuse damage or theft of property, exclusion from a position, association or event, among others. Individuals who believe they have been subject to retaliation should immediately report their concerns to the director of equal opportunity and compliance, provost and dean of the faculty, dean of the School of Social Work, associate vice president of human resources or the vice president for equity and inclusion.
All actions taken to investigate and resolve complaints through this procedure shall be conducted with as much privacy, discretion and confidentiality as possible without compromising the thoroughness and fairness of the investigation. All persons involved should treat the situation with respect. To conduct a thorough investigation, the investigator may discuss the complaint with witnesses and those persons involved in or affected by the complaint, and those persons necessary to assist in the investigation or to implement appropriate disciplinary actions. Disciplinary outcomes will be kept confidential.
State and Federal Agency Complaints
In addition to the above, an individual who believes they have been subjected to illegal discrimination may file a formal complaint with the government agencies listed below. Using the college’s complaint process does not prohibit an individual from filing a complaint with either of these agencies. Claims filed with MCAD must be filed within 300 days from the date of the alleged violation and complaints filed with OCR must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act.
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)
One Ashburton Place, Room 601
Boston, MA 02108
436 Dwight Street, Rm 220
Springfield, MA 01103
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
5 Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109-3921
Fax: 617-289-0150; TDD: 800-877-8339