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Ada Comstock Scholars Admissions

In 1994, Smith students learned of a plan by Mary Maples Dunn’s administration to lower the proportion of Ada Comstock Scholars (AC Scholars) admitted to Smith College every academic year. After writing to President Dunn and imploring her to not discontinue the program or detract from it in any way, President Dunn primarily rationalized her decision in financial terms, saying AC Scholars required more financial aid on average than traditional age Smithies. As such, they had to prioritize more spots for traditional age students in order to accumulate enough paid tuition to cover AC Scholars’ financial requirements. She assured the AC Scholars who wrote to her that the program itself was not in danger of dissolution, but that its relative proportion of the student body would have to decrease to keep it as a financially viable program.

The original AC Scholars who wrote to President Dunn did not find this explanation to be adequate, and mobilized other AC Scholars, traditional age students, and faculty members to advocate for the maintenance of the Ada Comstock Scholar Program at its current levels. AC Scholars circulated petitions to every Smith house and academic department, collecting signatures from students and professors who wanted to express their support for the program and AC Scholars themselves. The Student Government Association Cabinet also wrote to President Dunn to express their disapproval of the proposal, citing the importance of AC Scholars at Smith College as a way of accumulating diverse viewpoints in the classroom, on campus, and on the global stage.

The mission of the AC Scholars culminated in a “Rally for Adas” in front of Neilson Library demanding that the program be left alone, if not further supported by the administration. Although the Sophia Smith Collection did not contain any information regarding the outcome of this rally, the program’s continued presence (and increasing robustness) indicates Smith’s perception of it as a valuable part of the college’s mission. Although Ada Comstock Scholars continue to clash with Smith administration over issues of accessibility, transparency, and financial aid, traditional age students and faculty members continue to support Smith’s AC Scholars and stand alongside them in their fight.