I do not think that anyone in administrative or student government leadership at Tufts has bad intentions. I truly believe that President Bacow, the deans and provost, and Senate members want to do things that make this campus better. But coming up with ideas to make things better is the easiest part of leadership. The hard thing is deciding what is most in need of being made better, and determining which projects are most worthy of the limited financial and political resources available. This is a task that the institutions on this campus have failed at this year.
The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate started off this year on a foul note, with last spring’s confusion about the election of a TCU president, an election whose ethical questionability can still be seen in the illegal chalking “Vote Chike” on a column outside the Campus Center. TCU President Chike Aguh summarized what he saw as the organ’s achievements this year: “The biggest triumph of this body is that it’s about projects and not about ego.” (“Senate recaps its last year with Aguh”, April 6) Well, perhaps someday the Senate will be about meeting students’ needs. Projects themselves are completely about ego, as I know anytime I have criticized a project it has been taken as a personal attack on the Senator involved.
Personal issues have much too great a place in our Senate, as several senators hold leadership positions in other organizations that they fund, and have other political obligations, too. This conflict of interest cannot be allowed to continue, but since many true student leaders at Tufts would rather clip their toenails than get involved in the egotistical nonsense of the Senate, elections will continue uncontested and nothing will ever change.
I argue that the Senate accomplished very little this year. Notable exceptions include Fall Fest, and…oh wait, nothing, because every other project the Senate claims as an accomplishment has had a negligible impact on student life. The entire methodology the Senate uses in determining policy priorities is flawed, as it comes up with projects and then asks students if they are in favor of them. Well, gee, most students are not against any expanded services. There is nothing to be opposed to about a Boston shuttle or extra internet. But are these high on the list of student priorities? No. Students care far more about our inadequate and incompetent housing system and staff, and the shameful physical state of many of our facilities, than transportation on the weekend to an area with largely-21+ clubs that can be relatively easily accessed anyway.
But working on those issues are harder and would confront administrative opposition, so the Senate will keep to the ‘nice’ stuff, avoiding engaging in any real dialogue with students and administrators. Perhaps my favorite quote of a senator in recent memory comes from easily re-elected 2007 senator Simon Sassenberg. In commenting on his disappointment for the lack of student fervor for the demagogues of the TCU, he said, “Senate does things that directly affect the student population, such as printing information on the back of student IDs and the wireless campus center. So if students take advantage of Senate projects, then why don’t they vote?” Well, personally, I could not vote for the TCU Senate this year, as only three rising seniors ran for the seven class spots. And have you ever stared at the back of your ID card, longing for it to share information with you?
Like the Senate, the administration also is pursuing priorities and goals unrelated to actual student concerns and needs. Apparently, the newest oppressed population on campus is graduate students, who are “overshadowed” by the undergraduate school (“Graduate school works to draw attention to GSAS”, April 6) Well, duh. I came to Tufts, as did many of us, because of its supposed commitment to undergraduates. And as I begin to look at graduate schools, I am looking at places that are more focused on their graduate population. Tufts’ undergraduate nature has never been a hidden secret. Yes, we have some great graduate programs, but the lifeblood of this school is its undergraduates, and it should continue to be so.
The same goes for changes implemented in commencement, supposedly coming from the Undergraduate Task Force, which collected its “data” by collecting random anecdotal information. Tufts is an undergraduate, liberal arts-based institution. Students develop relationships across the school, both with faculty and other students. To end our time here divided by something that represented less than one-third of our academic life here, and little or none of our social life, is absurd. And to do this while our Office of Residential Life and Learning is in shambles (Dean Reitman and Yolanda King have both refused to comment to me about this issue,) and the important major construction projects are on hold due to a greedy city is irresponsible.
Even our cultural centers have become unresponsive to student needs, focusing on activism, scholarship, and greater issues in society, growing less and less concerned about the psychosocial needs of the student constituencies on this campus. I find it ironic that the entire Dean of Students bureaucracy has absolutely no accountability to students, and some major tragedy will probably have to occur before any change or re-evaluation occurs.
ELBO member Abby Lillianfeld expressed my feelings about the student and administrative leadership and the job they did this year quite well: “Nothing special about this one.” (“TCU elections proceed largely uncontested,” April 8) senators and administrators can have their projects until the cows come home, but until their priorities match those of the student body, they will be failures in my book.
Adam Pulver is a junior majoring in political science and community health. He can be reached at [email protected]