Steps to Anti-Racism, 1980s and 1990s

Significant Initiatives and Events Related to Anti-Racism Mission at SSW 1986-2011

Prepared by: Kathryn Basham and Susan Donner, May 21, 2014

For an alumna’s perspective on some of the following events that occurred while she was a student, watch the oral history “Joanne Frustaci and the Turbulent Class of 1987”

Black and white photo of an interracial group of protesters. One sign says "Difference not Dissonance"

1986 Protest, Photographer: Unrecorded, RG 60 Acc #07A-007, School of Social Work Records, College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, MA.


3 out of 286 students self-identify as students of color


SSW sponsors a gathering for all alumni of color to develop 33 proposals for change

SSW Minority Alumni Conference 1987, Photographer: Photographics Studio, Inc,, RG 60 Box 1315, College Archives, College Archives, Northampton, MA.


Dean Hartman commits additional funds to support the developing of inter-racial teams to teach the required #334 course titled Race and Racism in the US: Implications for Social Work Practice. (This page describes the related courses before 1989)


Pledges additional scholarship money for students of color.

Between 1987-2004:

Launches the Bertha Reynolds fellowship program for Ph.D. candidates committed to anti-racism work and multiculturalism

Increases number of students of color

Increases scholarships for students of color

Hires Admissions Director specifically to recruit students of color


The faculty, students, and Administration at the SSW commit resoundingly to become an “anti-racist institution”

Dean Hartmann retires.  Susan Donner serves as Acting Dean.

A sit-in occurs at the Dean’s Office in Lilly Hall focused on the anti-racism course

A meeting involves all stakeholders in the school focused on short and long-term goals.

Anti-Racism Task Force forms and sub-committees emerge (i.e. curriculum, admissions and retention, mission statement, field and community relations)


Active working task groups develop recommendations in the various content areas (i.e. curriculum, admissions and retention, mission statement, field, and community relations)

SSW adopts Mission Statement. “Clinical social work recognizes and responds to the complexities of the human condition: its strengths, possibilities, systems of meaning, resilience, vulnerabilities and tragedies. . . .The school shares with the social work profession its historic commitment to serve oppressed, disadvantaged and at risk members of our society.”   

Develops the Anti-Racism Field Assignment

Black and white photo of interracial group of students on front steps.

Cover of 1995 School for Social Work Bulletin, College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, MA.


Commences the development of the three models of the anti-racism course in response to reactions from students expressing concerns that, on occasion, one or very few students of color have been enrolled in a particular class

Develop the Monitoring Committee to serve as a consultation team to: (1) respond to concerns and complaints related to race and racism in the SSW community; and (2) provide an audit of progress re. anti-racism activities in all sectors of the School

Dean Lightburn provides financial resources to establish the Senior Bertha Reynolds program with six senior faculty members of color to provide mentoring, consultation re: research and participation on the Academic and Fieldwork Performance committee and the Monitoring committee

Commences monthly meetings among faculty and administrators focused on issues of race and racism in all sectors of the SSW community


Administrative decisions point to enrollment of students of color in practice classes

Student challenges any potential placement of students in specific classes based on identification according to race, based on guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education

Changes name of Monitoring Committee to Anti-Racism Consultation Committee

Term “anti-racist” is replaced by “anti-racism” in all SSW-based literature

Increase Monday night lectures offered by faculty of color

1996 onward: Increases in recruiting more students of color and adjunct faculty members of color

Develops Pedagogy and Diversity seminar/discussion group for adjunct and resident faculty during academic summers

Photo of interracial group

Group of SSW students in 1999, Photographer: Unrecorded. School for Social Work Records, RG 60 Acc #99A-100. College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, MA.


Increases in administrative staff of color

Develops more scholarship funds for students who have demonstrated commitments to anti-racism in their theses and community projects


Develops orientation programs for incoming MSW and Ph.D. student related to anti-racism


Publishes a special issue of Smith College Studies in Social Work titled Pedagogy and Diversity


Develops an orientation for students of color prior to entry to the MSW program

Color photo

This quilt commemorates an interactive art installation that occurred in the summer of 2001 at the Smith College School for Social Work. Based on an invitation to respond to this event, participants expressed their sentiments on cotton strips, now woven into the quilt, representing a range of voices. The Class of 2002, the Anti-Racism Task Force and the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute cooperated to complete the quilt project.