Leah Berkowitz-Gosselin: Smith College, Northampton must step it up

Fog rolls in over downtown Northampton overlooking College Hall on the Smith College campus.

Fog rolls in over downtown Northampton overlooking College Hall on the Smith College campus. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 04-12-2024 2:28 PM

Modified: 04-12-2024 8:45 PM

Nearly 20 years ago, I left California to attend the Smith College School for Social Work, expressly because of their stated anti-racism curriculum commitment, clear attempts at integrating person-first language, consumer-driven dialogue and community-minded engagement — all of which strongly resonated with my Oakland roots.

Did they do it perfectly? Of course not; but I stand with their ongoing commitment to organizational and developmental change. We all benefit from the accountability of systems prioritizing these values, including elementary and secondary education. With Northampton on a similarly stated path and these values at SCSSW’s forefront, I’m rooting for a partnership!

I’m also confused by Smith’s institutional leadership and profound neglect of formal financial interest in the educational community it has benefited so greatly from. Smith faculty, staff and students have kids in Northampton public schools, an oft-selling point for recruitment and retention.

As a clinical social worker, educator and tax supporter of the city, I have a ninth grader who has been with NPS since kindergarten. Many have shared complex concerns regarding the programs at stake. With only hundreds in the Northampton High School instrumental programs budget, I have recently devoted innumerable hours in support of the inspiring students and educators (www.32auctions.com/nhsinstrumentalcampaign/, ends April 15).

Students find unparalleled safety in our arts, music and theater programs, along with sports. We cannot fund less. We must do better.We are in the midst of an ethical and financial crisis of education, stewardship and opportunity for further developmental change. Step it up, Smith College! Step it up, Northampton!

Leah Berkowitz-Gosselin


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