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Friday, May 19, 2006

Paradise City Forum Statement

Naomi Graychase is Alumnae President of the Smith College Class of 1994 and SACRED co-founder. She has been a Northampton resident for most of the last sixteen years. As a representative of SACRED, she sat on a panel at the Paradise City Forum, “Sustaining Community at the Campus Edge: Exploring Creative Long-term Planning Solutions For The Growth of Northampton Non-Profits” on April 24th, 2006 in Northampton, MA. Below is the statement she read. It was met with enthusiastic applause.

Good evening. Thank you all for coming; thanks to Paradise City Forum for making this night possible, and for allowing me the opportunity to participate.

I am here tonight as a representative of SACRED, the Student Alumnae Coalition for Responsible Expansion and Development. We are a group of students and alumnae who are concerned about the approach our college is taking to its expansion. We are not sanctioned by the college or the Alumnae Association, and we cannot speak for all students and alumnae.

The members of SACRED believe that what the college is currently endeavoring to build, and the ways in which it has conducted its planning process, represent a serious departure from the stated mission of the college, and that the choices being made by the Christ administration go against the intention of the college’s founder, and against the wishes of a majority of students and alumnae. We are dismayed by the ways in which the college has neglected to inform students and alumnae about its true plans for long-term development in the Green Street Area. And we are disturbed by the way the members of the neighborhood have been left out of the process.

Many of our concerns are best addressed to the college itself. But in this public forum, we want to make it known that there is a determined and ever-growing movement among alumnae and students who want to see our college do a better, more socially and environmentally responsible job of planning and expanding.

Our topic of discussion this evening is “sustaining community on the campus edge.”

We believe that in order for community to be sustained at the campus edge, the college must first acknowledge two things. First, that sustaining community is worthwhile; and second, that its campus does, in fact, have an edge. An edge that should not continue to encroach without limit into the surrounding residential areas.

As the college and the city move forward with plans to cope with Smith’s expansion, we would like to ask the college to do the following things:

1) Stop comparing this small, cozy, urban campus to larger, more rural campuses when crafting plans. For example, when justifying the current plans for 400,000 square feet of new science buildings, President Christ and other college representatives have repeatedly compared the Smith campus to the campuses of other “peer institutions,” most frequently Amherst and Mount Holyoke, each of which boast campuses with roughly a thousand more acres than Smith. We believe this is an inappropriate comparison, and that it does not ethically further the process of decision-making regarding land-use.

2) Stop abusing its privilege. Because the college has so many resources at its disposal, we believe that it bears a correspondingly large responsibility to its hometown and neighbors who do not have a billion dollars in resources or the protection of legislation like the Dover Amendment.

3) Genuinely engage the community and actually listen to their input. The college waited too long to invite community members to the table. And the situation was exacerbated when the input provided by residents at the ad hoc working group and the Goody/Clancy charette was effectively ignored.

4) Do a better job of using its existing resources before planning any future expansions.

5) And last, but not least, make a pledge to always consider the town of Northampton its equal when making decisions that affect the future of both the college and its hometown. As Smith alumna Madeleine L’Engle taught us, “like” and “equal” are not the same. While the needs of the town and the college may not always be alike, they should always be considered equal.

Thank you.


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