Joe Thibodeau, a junior, is running for Tufts Community Union (TCU) president with a plan to create a community that better reflects students needs and desires.
Thibodeau, who has served on Senate since September of his freshman year, is currently abroad in Madrid but has continued to participate in Senate activities. In the past, Thibodeau has assumed positions on Senates Education Committee and Allocations Board, and he served as the bodys first Diversity and Community Affairs Officer.
Since his sophomore year, Thibodeau has also chaired and participated as a member of the Culture, Ethnicity & Community Affairs Committee (CECA), a group that focuses on issues of race and gender equality and inclusion, he said. His platform is largely dedicated to creating a community that provides diverse groups on campus with better resources and representation.
Theres a Tufts that we deserve as a student body, he said. We all deserve to have the resources and the opportunities available to us to pursue our own personal growth, our academic passions, our extracurricular interests.
Thibodeau has also been involved in the Tufts community as a member of several student organizations, including WMFO, Pen, Paint & Pretzels (3Ps), Tufts Dance Collective (TDC), Freshman Orientation CommUnity Service (FOCUS), LIFT Somerville and the Tisch Scholars Program, he said. Thibodeau sees this sort of engagement as a valuable characteristic for a TCU President.
I think something that makes a strong leader is one who can facilitate change by working arm in arm with a community, whether its standing at a rally with different political organizations on campus [or] meeting with different sports and going to talk to them, he said.
Rose Mendelsohn, Thibodeaus campaign manager, believes his activism on campus makes him popular among students.
We have a number of senators on our team to support [Thibodeau] because they know that he takes action on Senate and that hes gotten a lot done, Mendelsohn, a junior, said. I think if you look at our campaign … and the number of people who want him to be president, I think that speaks to what kind of presence he has outside of Senate.
Thibodeau hopes to strengthen the Senates connections with campus organizations, including the Programming Board and Group of Six, both by increasing Senate outreach and by bringing representatives from different communities into Senate conversations. Previously, Thibodeau worked to give underrepresented voices a place on Senate by teaming up with groups such as Tufts Voices for Choice (VOX) and Students Acting for Gender Equality (SAGE) to create a Womens Center representative position on Senate, he said.
I recognize that not only is there a lack of non-men on the Senate, but theres a lack of a gender-conscious perspective that critically analyzes gender, he said.
Thibodeau said he has also worked to improve academic representation of racial groups on campus. According to his website, he acted as co-sponsor and writer of the resolution calling for the creation of an Africana Studies Department and also participated in the Race and Ethnicities Working Group that resulted in the introduction of an Africana Studies major and minor, along with an Asian-American Studies minor. Thibodeau helped to rejuvenate CECA, which, under his leadership, passed resolutions calling for increased accessibility for disabled persons on campus, gender-neutral housing and facilities, extended alumni networks for African American and Latino communities on campus and for Hindi and Korean language course options.
I would often be reaching out to other communities, especially Group of Six communities, about issues in Senate, Thibodeau said. I was sort of trying to bridge the gap between people of color, queer people, feminists and the Senate as a whole.
If elected president tomorrow, Thibodeau said he plans to lobby for increased grant opportunities for students and bring the university closer to becoming need-blind. He said students should be able to have clear communication with the administration about the limits of their financial aid packages and have expanded work-study options.
[A need-blind policy is] not something that can get accomplished in one year, but making sure the administration knows that this is a priority and bringing it up again and again is something thats critical, he said.
According to Thibodeau, he began this process last year when he connected Senate with United for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity (U/FUSED), a national network of student bodies committed to make college more affordable. Most recently, he has worked to change Senate campaign rules for financing in order to make the process more equitable in the future.
Thibodeau also plans to push forward medical amnesty and Good Samaritan policies and respond to Massachusetts new marijuana regulations, in an attempt to make the campus safer. He also intends to reform the role of Residential Assistants, giving them less of a punitive role in order to encourage students to seek them out.
I think that we need to sort of understand that Senates power comes from the fact that its a lobbying organization with clout and social capital in terms of to the administration, he said.
Thibodeau said he is open and willing to listen to the community and plans to use the influence of the presidential position to be a strong voice among the administration.
I think its important to really sort of press the administration on issues and really sort of be an active voice and a strong voice, one thats always willing to listen and debate but also one thats willing, when push comes to shove, to work for the change, and lobby, and put their force and their heart behind these issues, he said.
Mendelsohn said that Thibodeau greatly values the opinions of his opponents, believing that this quality makes him a good leader.
People even on Senate know that making him president doesnt mean that everything that they want to get passed is going to get passed, she said. They know that he will always listen to them fairly and hear them out and that he never wants to shut down a conversation. Hes always the one opening the conversation up.