Interview | Monaco discusses recent changes, progress at Tufts

President Anthony Monaco sat down with the Tufts Daily last month to discuss recent changes and events on the Hill — ranging from the Council on Diversity to the recently approved Strategic Plan and unionization.


The Tufts Daily: Could you speak to some of the administrative changes that have come about this semester?


Anthony Monaco: These transitions are part of normal business, but we’re very excited, particularly about the two new deans. [Dean of The Fletcher School James Stavridis] is a very internationally known figure, admiral and [military commander], and he already has hit the ground running with external relations with alumni and his faculty. [He is] very good at reaching across the schools. … [Dean of Tisch College] Alan Solomont isn’t quite here yet, but he’s getting ready to take things over.

[Former] Board of Trustees Chair … Jim Stern is really hard to replace after he spent 32 years on the board — half of his life. He was a great mentor to me, as he guided me through my first two years. Already Peter [Dolan] has been taking over, and in the transition period, we would have a tri-partite discussion once a week. … Peter was essential in being the leader of the trustees on the Strategic Plan. … [He helped] [Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris] understand from [the board’s] perspective what things were important to the plan. … [Dolan] cares deeply about the university.

[University Chaplain Greg McGonigle], I think, has also hit the ground running. He’s been very popular among the students, engaging students across the faith groups, working with the CSL policy and being a positive force.


TD: A major theme of the Strategic Plan is “transformational experiences” — how do you define them, exactly?


AM: I’ve learned it mostly from alumni, because you’re too immersed in it at the moment to probably realize you’re having a transformational experience. When you go to alumni and they say, “Tufts changed my life,” … they don’t realize it until they’re out — five years out or 10 years out. … [For] example, we talk about the [Boston Marathon] bombing and how that was kind of a negative transformational experience for students who were involved, but [also] how we’ve supported [them] and came back together as a community will be something they’ll never forget. … For others, it will be the co-curricular activities. So we just thought … it was a very central theme and really what it means to be part of an academic-residential community. It’s not easy to replace that with an online course.


TD: Could you talk about online courses’ potential at Tufts?


AM: We think they’re important. We want to use digital technology as best we can to enhance the learning experience. I think the summer courses, as an example, allow students to do an internship somewhere but also continue to get credits if they want to, and we also want to make sure faculty are up-to-date with the best practices of how to use digital technology.


TD: Could you comment on issues with students not being able to find housing, and if the university is planning to address these?


AM: I have asked David Harris to convene a committee to look at a resident housing strategy for Tufts. … It’s not just about building a new dorm. It’s about … things like programming that [Dean] John Barker is interested [in] and already piloting this year with the ACE Fellows and through the [Resident Assistants]. … The problem with our current dorms is … we can renovate the bathrooms and the common rooms, but we can’t really do a gut renovation and reconfigure it to more modern ways in which students want to have a residential life, [an initiative] we would like to support.


TD: Could you comment on when you think you’ll be implementing policies discussed at the Council on Diversity’s meeting on Oct. 10?


AM: Diversity issues are not ones that change overnight. David Harris always talks about “administrative time” and “student time.” Students would like to see things happen quickly, but administrators are here for a little longer, and they have plans they would like to implement to see long-standing and sustainable change. I am very eager to make as many of those changes as quickly as we can.

I initiated the diversity council within my first six months because I felt I heard from the students a very robust argument that we needed to change the climate on campus, and I looked at the numbers and our compositional diversity had been flat. … The consensus is [that] we need a chief diversity officer [at board discussions], so I think … we are going to begin the preliminary steps of writing the job description and think about how we want to recruit someone in this role. Then there’s all the kind of changes we need to do to help our faculty and staff to become more … aware on diversity issues. These are things we need to promote on campus since we can’t do just one big step.


TD: Do you have an estimated time frame for hiring a chief diversity officer?


AM: We may have a very good internal candidate when we compare all the applicants — then, that person could be appointed quite quickly. But if it’s an external candidate, we want to do a national search. … I’d like to have an appointment by the end of the academic year, for the next academic year, starting over the summer.


TD: Are there any truth to the rumors of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts changing its relationship with Tufts?


AM: Yes. All I know is that the new director of the [SMFA] is contemplating [the school’s] ability to grant its own degrees, rather than relying on Tufts. So that’s a discussion that’s going on. We value our relationship with them … We would like to make sure [the director] understands the consequences of breaking down our relationship, but if that’s something that he really, really wants to do, it’s not for us to stand in his way. … I have not been involved in those negotiations. Those are done at the level of the deans of Arts and Sciences.12