Professors Under Fire For Opposing Affirmative Action

Alissa Lopez | August 18, 2016

Professor Dennis Miehls and various other “concerned adjuncts” wrote two letters to the administration at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., questioning the presence of affirmative action in the admission process for the school's social work program, only to gind themselves now being labeled white supremacists and racists by students in the program.

The letters stated that the admission process for the social work program was “tainted” because the administrators “continue to offer differential outcomes to students of color, in spite of overwhelming data that demonstrates that many of [their] students, including white­-identified students, cannot offer clients a social work intervention that is based upon competence, skills and ethics.”

"What many people are thinking but afraid to say is that when students are admitted who do not have the academic qualifications to do well enough in a rigorous, demanding, stressful program (as has clearly happened with the current second-year class), these students are being set up for failure, particularly when we do not provide adequate support of all types as they pass through the program. This is unethical and immoral."

While these letters were meant to stay private, one student, who remains unidentified, managed to leak the two letters to the campus community. He or she felt it was “critical to share these letters… in order to facilitate transparency and accountability around the violent, racist rhetoric directed toward students of color on the Smith campus.”

And now Smith College students are angry, of course.

According to the New Hampshire Gazette, some 250 students gathered on Tuesday to protest against the "rhetoric" of these professors and the college’s alleged failure of putting an end to racial bias.

One student, Christopher Watkins, allegedly stated during the event that a “disproportionate amount of Black and Latino students are under review.”

Smith College Dean Marianne Yoshioka didn’t indicate in her statement to Inside Higher Ed whether or not there will be disciplinary actions taken against any of the professors. 

Marianne Yoshioka: The Smith College School for Social Work is one of the most selective social work programs in the country. Our standards are exceptionally high for those we admit, and we take pride in each of our highly intelligent, capable and compassionate students, particularly throughout the recent campus involvement they have encouraged. For the past year, prompted by these students, we as a community have been engaged in important, productive and collaborative work to continually evolve as an antiracism organization.… We are clinical professionals specifically committed to social justice and systemic change.