Tufts administration responds to letter about TEDCC transition

TEDCC parents, Tufts faculty and community members bring their children and rally signs to the Academic Quad for the Save TEDCC play-in in protest of Bright Horizons taking over the Tufts Educational Day Care Center on July 31, 2014. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts administration responded on Monday to an open letter from university faculty, staff and graduate students calling for the establishment of a one-year task force following Tufts’ decision to hand management of the Tufts Educational Day Care Center (TEDCC) to Bright Horizons Family Solutions.

The letter outlined what the Arts, Sciences and Engineering Committee on Faculty Work/Life found to be flaws of the decision, including the lack of communication with the committee and consequently the violation of the committee’s bylaws, and the ways the decision adversely impacts faculty, staff and graduate students. It also presented data and research on university-affiliated day care centers across the country.

“Our hopes are twofold, really,” Elizabeth Remick, associate professor of political science and co-chair of the work/life committee, told the Daily in an email. “First, we hope that the task force can be a model for how faculty, staff, students and administrators can work together to solve problems when we understand and respect each other’s concerns. And second, we hope that the task force can develop a comprehensive, data-driven, and do-able plan for childcare provision over the long term.”

The decision to transition management of TEDCC was first announced on July 16. Initially, parents petitioned the administration to reverse its decision. A week later, on July 23, about 25 faculty and staff members penned a first letter that loosened their request, asking to postpone the transition for a year.

The transition to Bright Horizons management was effective Sept. 1, and the first day of school was Sept. 2. On Sept. 3, the work/life committee circulated the open letter around faculty, staff and graduate students. Signed by over 200 members of the Tufts community, the letter was sent on Sept. 16 to University President Anthony Monaco, Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris, Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell and Interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser.

The administration’s response acknowledged the flaws in the decision that the open letter outlined.

“In order to move forward, we first acknowledge that the decision-making process in this instance did not include representatives from all of the key constituency groups,” the letter to faculty said. “We did not anticipate the strong reaction to the decision, though we should have, and we apologize to those faculty and staff members who were affected, and to the broader community of faculty and staff that has taken an interest in this decision. Although we aspire to open and transparent decision making and to effective faculty governance, it is clear that in this instance we fell short.”

The administration’s response also ultimately agreed that a task force should be implemented to effectively address the work/life committee agenda. Harris has already met with the committee to begin discussing the first steps in establishing the task force, according to the letter.

Before the formal response was circulated, Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler commented on the issues brought up in the open letter.

“Tufts supports efforts to look thoughtfully at the work/life issues that are important to each member of our community,” Thurler told the Daily in an email. “The senior leadership team is committed to engaging with Tufts community members to identify opportunities for positive change.”

According to Remick, the committee also hopes to see progress made in a number of work/life areas, including policies related to medical leave and housing, among others.

“As for the administration’s relationship with the work/life committee, we have always done our best to work constructively in partnership with the Arts, Sciences and Engineering administration, and together over the last few years we’ve made a lot of progress on work/life policies in AS&E,” Remick explained. “We hope that after this recent setback we can get back on track and continue that progress.”