Ada Comstock Program
This posts marks the beginning of a series of lengthier discussions around the issue of how Smith is dealing with the recession. For this post, blogger alum opinions were solicited via email. Other comments were taken (with permission) from an online Smith forum. We welcome further comments at email@example.com.
At the beginning of March, Smith College announced cuts to the Ada Comstock Scholars Program as part of the effort to reduce the college’s budget by millions of dollars in response to the troubled economy:
- Local public radio story (3/3/09)
- Smith Sophian article (3/5/09)
- Greenfield Recorder article (3/5/09)
While this blog cannot serve as a comprehensive debate on the subject, we present here a variety of different opinions by alums, some Adas (as noted by the AC before their class year year) and some traditional students.
Mary AC ’06 is deeply disappointed in the cuts to the program, saying, “it has changed my life in ways that I had not even imagined.”
It allowed me to explore avenues of study and a study abroad travel opportunity that the state schools could never have provided. I learned to look at everything from a different perspective, evaluate all aspects of my life in a constructive manner and to broaden my views tremendously. Smith, and more importantly the AC program, believed in me, gave me encouragement and support, and made me believe in myself. Now, I get up each day and in the back of my mind, I think, “how can I continue to be the person that Smith intended me to be?”I believe that no one can appreciate an education more than those who have dreamed for decades of attending college and as each year passes, that dream is denied. Our children grow up, our marriages break up, and we become those women in the workplace that are no longer the “cute ones.’ We have been so busy working and making a life for others, we got passed by our own consent. We train our supervisors and managers, knowing we will never be one of them if we do not have an education.—Mary M. Vick AC ’06
But not all Adas feel the same way:
Although I am always grateful for the opportunity the Ada Program gave me, I had mixed feelings at the time. Wouldn’t it have been possible for me to simply be “a Smithie”? Why did I need to be “an Ada”? I would have qualified (or not) for the same financial aid through the government. The only real difference is that Smith called me “full time” at 12 credits, a special dispensation to the often more challenging school-life balance that older students face, and an issue with Smith financial aid. There was no need for this at my community college or my graduate institution, because the real difference there is that ANY student can take as few classes a semester as they desire and as many years to complete their course work as they need. […]
In short, I don’t think the Ada Program is necessary. I would be saddened and outraged, indeed, if Smith announced that they would no longer accept women over the age of 20, but closing the Ada Program isn’t that. Let me be very clear, though, that I think Smith can continue to attract and educate women of all ages, just as they do women of all socio-economic, ethnic, national, religious, etc., backgrounds, without some special “program” to do it. In fact, I think it might be of benefit to non-traditionally-aged students to drop the adjectives and just let them be students. […]
Perhaps the real issue should be that Smith should re-think it’s policy of four-years-and-you’re-out for ALL students. It’s the only TRUE difference in being an Ada, and it seems ridiculous, to me, to assume that the ease of finishing college in four years is dependent on one’s age. Come on. There were 20-year-olds at Smith who faced far greater challenges than I did.
—Angelyn M Zephyr, AC ’05J
A trad alumna weighs in on cutting scholarship aid in general:
It seems totally bizarre to cut scholarship aid to those who need it most! Although I was not an Ada scholar, I did receive a full scholarship from the Fairfield County (CT) Smith Alumnae Association. Naturally, I feel “affiliated” with Ada and other scholarship students. In my day we were only about 25% of the student population, and I like to think we brought a fresh perspective on education to the other 75%-–we were serious about the academic side of Smith, supportive of the nascent Women’s Rights movement that changed all of our lives, and probably went on in greater proportions to contribute well beyond the wife-mother role we seemed destined for in 1960.
—Elizabeth Hanson-Smith Thompson ’64
If you’d like to read more responses, here are some other links:
- “Community Feedback to the Financial Environment” (Smith College page)
- Facebook group: Ada Comstock Scholars: Fighting Proposed Cuts
- Post by Jenn ’03 on Monkey’s Blog
- Discussion on the Alumnae Smith Forum
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Tags: ada comstock, smith college