Tufts students express disappointment by university response to war in Ukraine

Tufts community members gather and walk around campus to rally in support of Ukraine on March 2. Mina Terzioglu / The Tufts Daily
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“Tufts, speak up! Stop the war!” chanted a crowd of Tufts students, faculty and other community members during a rally at Mayer Campus Center last Wednesday, March 2. They gathered to show their support for Ukraine and to express their disappointment in the Tufts administration’s response to the war, hoping to prompt action.

Artem Dinh, a junior, has been at the forefront of the student response to the war in Ukraine at Tufts. Dinh, who is Ukrainian and Vietnamese, feels there has been a lack of support and activism at Tufts, which led him to attend rallies at other universities in Boston.

I was kind of disappointed in Tufts in general, so I was spending my time … helping colleges where it could make a difference, colleges where there was a movement already,” Dinh said.

Along with other students, Dinh created the informational Instagram account @tuftshelpukraine and compiled a website with information on the war in Ukraine that lists resources to educate and support. Dinh also joined together with other Ukrainian and Russian students, in addition to other Tufts students and alumni, to rally to push the administration at Tufts to take action. 

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Two days following the rally, on March 4, the university administration sent an email to the Tufts community.

We write today in one voice to express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine and to express our deepest concern for those impacted by the tragedy of war unfolding there. Our hearts go out in particular to the members of our community whose families and loved ones are directly in harm’s way, the statement read.

Some students, like Dinh, feel the statement could have come earlier and gone further in its support. 

[Tufts was] one of the last colleges in Boston to make a statement, which is a shame for the school in general, Dinh said.

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, both released statements to their student bodies on Thursday, Feb. 28.

For Tufts, it took eight days, and it took a 100-person rally for them to actually speak up. It took us screaming and crying, ‘Please Tufts do something!’ Dzheveira Karimova, a first-year who organized the rally with Dinh and others, said. 

Karimova studies international relations at Tufts and is a Russian citizen; her entire family currently lives in Russia.

So many of us are struggling to wake up every day. We’re struggling to not only go to our classes, just every day checking your phone, Karimova said. [My friends are] checking whether their cousins, their aunts, their friends or grandmothers [are] alive. … It takes a toll on you. It takes a toll on you and knowing that everything that your family has worked for is just destroyed, and you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

In an email to the Tufts administration, Dinh and Karimova, along with their fellow student Eulasha Tisnovsky, expressed their disappointment in the Tufts administration’s response. They also proposed to work together with the administration on providing resources to students to cope with the current conflict.

Both Dinh and Karimova felt that they did not receive a sufficient response to that email and that the administration did not address their specific questions.

They basically copy-pasted the same thing they said in their original email,” Karimova said, comparing the response they received to the administration’s statement on Friday, March 4.

Karimova noted that Tufts’ lack of action is particularly frustrating considering the school’s wealth of resources.

It’s so frustrating seeing how inactive the school has been because it does have a huge alumni network. [Tufts] does have huge connections that they can use to advocate against this,” Karimova said.

Dinh also emphasized that Tufts should increase their effort to educate the community.

If we cannot educate the student body about what’s going on, how are we expecting them to take actions if the administration is not … able to make any sort of a statement that’s educating that community? Dinh said.

In an email to the Daily, Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations, wrote on behalf of James M. Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as Kyongbum Lee, dean of the School of Science and Engineering.

The Daily sent a set of specific questions to Dean Lee and Dean Glaser asking, for example, if the university plans to make academic flexibility more available to affected students, or if they plan to widen their outreach from only focusing on Ukrainian citizens attending Tufts to other students that have less direct ties to the conflict but are nonetheless affected by it. The response sent by Patrick Collins, which was attributed to Dean Lee and Dean Glaser, echoed the prior email the administration had sent to the wider Tufts community.

While student needs will vary, we want to make sure impacted students know we’re here for them and that we want to do everything we can to ensure that they are able to continue to pursue their education at Tufts, Glaser and Lee wrote. We wanted people to know that the university leadership — the president, all deans, and other university leaders — are unified in this commitment.”

Andrew Shiotani, director of the International Center at Tufts, wrote in an email to the Daily that the I-Center has been reaching out to students at Tufts impacted by the war in Ukraine to offer support and are putting in place long-term strategies to help affected students. Those plans include requesting emergency grants for Ukrainian students on F-1 or J-1 student visas from the Institute of International Education. The I-Center also offers assistance for students applying for Temporary Protected Status from the Department of Homeland Security, which has recently been extended to Ukrainian nationals.

TPS provides temporary US legal status and work authorization to those who cannot return home due to natural disasters or conflict in their home countries, Shiatoni wrote.

According to Shiotani, broadening the scope of the I-Center’s outreach to all Tufts community members who are facing difficulties is important at this time.

In any crisis, the number of community members affected can be much broader than the number of visa holders — we have US citizens, permanent residents, and even other non-US citizens who aren’t on student visas but who have complex family and historical ties to other countries, Shiotani wrote.

When commenting on whether the administration has plans to widen their outreach to students who are not Ukrainian citizens yet feel affected by the current conflict, Glaser and Lee wrote that the Tufts administration encourages students who are in need of support to contact the “[Office of the] Dean of Student Affairs, the University Chaplaincy, Counseling and Mental Health (CMHS), the Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion, and the International Center.”

According to Dinh, however, the actions taken by the Tufts community so far should only mark the beginning of what he believes Tufts could achieve.

If we are so proud of Tufts’ history [of activism] in the ‘60s and ‘70s and we are so proud of being a leader in international global education, should we be more active in this? I think so. Because that’s why I actually chose this school. … I went here because of the [international relations] school.

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