Cheryl Muzio: Smith College owes more to the city

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 PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 05-15-2024 5:21 PM

Modified: 05-15-2024 7:13 PM


I am writing to address the guest column penned by Smith College President Sarah Willie-LeBreton [“Smith College and the city: Neighborliness and much more,” Gazette, April 12].

I read the article with great hopes that she, along with the Smith College board of trustees, would be stepping up to increase the support they provide the community. Instead, I was presented with a list of reasons why they were not providing much-needed financial assistance to the city.

While I appreciate that Smith College makes some donations to local causes, allows NHS students to take courses, and hold graduations in J.M. Greene Hall, I believe Smith College owes more to the city, which they depend on for municipal services and occupy with significant tax-exempt properties. I also appreciate that Smith uses part of its $2.47 billion endowment to provide financial aid to a third of their student body. In that way, they are very similar to comparable institutions.

Take, for example Grinnell College, which uses part of its $2.5 billion endowment to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for every student, but also provides the primary infrastructure of the Grinnell Educational Partnership, which supports youth programming and education in Grinnell, Iowa. Closer to home, Bowdoin College uses part of its $2.42 billion endowment to provide financial aid to more than half of their students, and also provides a minimum of $500,000 yearly to the city of Waterbury, Maine, which they depend on for municipal services and occupy tax-free.

If schools like Grinnell and Bowdoin can provide financial support in lieu of taxes to the cities they depend on, so can Smith College. The Smith College website proclaims generosity to be one of its core values. We need more from Smith College than neighborliness. We need them to live up to their values.

Cheryl Muzio

Northampton

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