Controversial ‘Cashmere and Pearls’ Letter in Smith College Newspaper Spurs Campus, Media Frenzy

A Smith College alumna’s letter to the editor published last week in The Sophian has triggered enormous campus debate and media gaper delays for its assessment of the school’s current student body.

As Anne Spurzem, a 1984 graduate of the private Massachusetts liberal arts college, wrote, “The people who are attending Smith these days are A) lesbians or B) international students who get financial aid or C) low-income women of color who are the first generation in their family to go to college and will go to any school that gives them enough money. Carol emphasizes that this is one of her goals, and so that’s why the school needs more money for scholarships or D) white heterosexual girls who can’t get into Ivy League schools.”

She closes by stating, “I can tell you that the days of white, wealthy, upper-class students from prep schools in cashmere coats and pearls who marry Amherst men are over. This is unfortunate because it is this demographic that puts their name on buildings, donates great art and subsidizes scholarships.”

A screenshot capture of the full letter. It has been removed from the Sophian website. Click on the screenshot to read the cached version-- the letter and more than 100 reader comments.

Since its publication and online posting, ‘the cashmere and pearls letter’ has been bandied about by the media and blasted by Smith students, alums, and supporters as shortsighted, ignorant, shockingly appalling, bigoted, and backward-thinking.

Smith students have even started “Pearls and Cashmere,” a Tumblr response blog on which “[m]any of the women talk about how they do not fit the stereotypes of the past, and are proud of what Smith has become.  Their stories stress that strong academics and diversity are by no means incompatible. And while the women pose in nontraditional ways for the photos that accompany their stories, many put on their pearls.”

In a Connecticut Post story, Spurzem says the letter was not meant for publication, written informally to the Sophian editor-in-chief in response to a recent article.

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