The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate passed a resolution urging the university to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day, elected two new members to its Allocations Board (ALBO) and allocated funds to several student groups at its first meeting of the semester last night.
The resolution to reconstitute Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day was submitted by seniors Genesis Garcia and Andrew Núñez. Núñez, the diversity and community affairs officer, called the change “largely historical and also very personal.”
“We’re talking about the murder and massacre of hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. “Christopher Columbus is not this sanitized figure.”
Garcia tied the resolution to increasing discussion at Tufts of the narratives of colonized peoples, citing the new colonialism studies minor among other programs and consortiums.
“I think it is only fair that this is included in those movements,” she said.
Benya Kraus, a freshman senator, said that as an international student, she and her peers find the celebration of Columbus Day to be “ridiculous.”
“It’s extremely offensive, extremely traumatic for students,” Women’s Center Representative Allison Aaronson, a sophomore, added.
While some senators questioned whether the new title was the most appropriate option, the consensus held that Columbus should not be honored with a university holiday. If Tufts were to follow Senate’s request, it would join other colleges like Cornell University and even states like Hawaii and Oregon in recognizing Columbus’ hand in the genocide of indigenous peoples.
“This is not something that is questioned in academia,” Trustee Representative Chloe Perez, a junior, said.
Senate also elected Kraus and fellow freshman Josh Davis to ALBO, which manages the financial requests of student organizations. Both students expressed an interest in learning more about the Tufts community through budgeting processes.
“I’m really interested in resource allocation,” Davis said.
Davis said his experience on his high school’s student judiciary would enable him to make tough decisions. Kraus added that she was raised to hold her ground when necessary.
“I definitely know how to say no when you need to,” she said.
The election followed the discussion of several supplementary funding requests, all of which passed. A request from the Tufts Debate Society was the most hotly contested, with Treasurer Adam Kochman, a junior, breaking a 15-15 tie to award the organization $3,530. The money will allow two students to attend a tournament for 10 days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and each student will have to fundraise or otherwise contribute an additional $500.
TCU Vice President Matt Roy, a senior, opposed the allocation, noting that it would give the student activity fees of 12 students to just two students.
“I think this is not a wise investment,” Sam Berzok, a junior senator, added.
Sophomore senator Dhruv Khurana countered that success at the competition — which he said the team attained last year — looks good for the university. TCU President Robert Joseph said he saw it as an otherwise-unattainable opportunity that Senate could provide for these students.
“It’s making dreams come true, in sort of a cheesy way,” Joseph, a senior, said.
The night’s largest allocation was $4,954 for Mixed Martial Arts to pay instructors and screen Ultimate Fighting Championship matches. Although the group has been recognized since 2007, it had previously relied on volunteer instructors from Tufts’ graduate schools. Other funded groups included Tufts Italian Club, which received $500 for cultural events, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, which was given $2,812 to attend a conference in Atlanta, PostScript, which received $2,400 to publish two issues, Tufts Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which got $1,950 to bring a former narcotics officer to speak, the Leonard Carmichael Society, which received $4,600 for transportation costs, the Muslim Students Association, which were given $1,766 for programming, United for Immigrant Justice, which got $642 for operating, and the Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services, which was given $657 to bring speakers to campus. Prior to this meeting, the supplementary fund stood at $200,000, according to Kochman.