Tafari Duncan, an engineering student majoring in computer science from Hartford, Conn., has always put a lot on his own plate.
“I’ve involved myself in everything I could juggle,” Duncan said. “When I was graduating high school … I remember multiple teachers came up to me and said, ‘Tafari, you can’t be this involved in college or else you just won’t be able to get anything done,’ and I assume I’ve done my best to prove them wrong.”
Having moved often while growing up (he says he felt like a “third-culture” kid of the Tri-State area), Duncan said that his time at Tufts has been the longest he has spent at a single school, and he has done his best to make the most of that time here. In addition to working as a teaching assistant for the computer science department and leading campus tours, he rows with the crew team and is the head projectionist for Tufts University Social Collective Film Series.
Since his first semester, he has also served on the Committee on Student Life (CSL), a panel made up of students and faculty whose duties include hearing appeals on disciplinary decisions such as plagiarism charges and working with the administration to form policies.
“I knew, coming into Tufts, I wanted to do student government,” he said. “I actually emailed the TCU president over the summer to try to pry information from him about how student government worked at Tufts.”
Duncan said he came onto the CSL just as it was struggling to come to a consensus on overhauling its “justified departure” policy, a decision that had allowed campus religious groups to apply for an exemption from the Tufts Community Union Judiciary’s non-discrimination guidelines under certain circumstances. Though he was new to the community, he knew he wanted to be a part of the CSL’s response to the controversy.
“Everyone was angry about this specific policy and I knew nothing about it beforehand, but at the same time, I felt like as a first-year, it was important for me to [add my voice],” he said. “Sometimes it met that I would literally be sitting opposite a faculty member who I had just meant a week ago, and I’d be like, ‘Well respectfully, sir, that’s not what students think.'”
Through working on the CSL, he ended up on the President’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council, and subsequently the search committee for the new Chief Diversity Officer, which hopes to select a new person for the position soon.
Duncan said that whenever he sees an opportunity to have a seat at the table regarding a decision that will effect change, he has a hard time not taking it.
“There are so many times when — not to say that I’m the person — but someone saying something different or someone pushing the conversation that has a different experience can just alter the way that something will go,” he said. “I really enjoy when … because of something I said, a group or something is changed for the better.”
Duncan has a passion for cybersecurity, a field growing in importance in which he thinks he can have a lot of impact. After graduation, he is working at Capital One as a software engineer.
He has also decided to serve on the Tufts Alumni Council to stay involved in a community that he has found engaging, exciting and welcoming.
“Tufts has not been perfect, but for me, the thing that has honestly just kept me going through and is why I really love being here is the people,” Duncan said.