Working group to investigate housing shortage

College Ave. on September 25, 2014. Tufts is in the process of creating a working group to examine the school's housing situation. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

A working group led by University Provost David Harris is being established to investigate the student housing situation at Tufts and the possibility of expanding on-campus housing.

The working group will consist of two sub-committees, Harris said. One of them, headed by Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell, will look at finances and facilities. The other, headed by Dean of Arts and Sciences James Glaser and Dean of Engineering Linda Abriola, will consider the character of on-campus housing, including whether it should be themed or include residential faculty.

According to Harris, the creation of the working group is motivated by several factors, including the Somerville ordinance restricting off-campus housing, as well as the future extension of the Green Line, which is expected to drive up rental prices in the neighborhoods near Tufts.

Harris noted that the group is in its very early stages. It began with an initial planning meeting at the end of March during which he, Campbell, Glaser and Abriola discussed the purpose of the group, each sub-committee’s duties, the group’s membership and a proposed timeline.

“What we concluded was that, given where we are in the year, what makes most sense is to spend some time getting information,” Harris said. He explained that administrators will look at where students currently live, the quality and character of existing on-campus residences and the off-campus housing market.

“We have administrators going through the data, so we have all this at the ready when the group is ready to launch in earnest and get running as soon as the fall semester starts,” he said.

Harris explained that administrators from relevant offices — including the Office of Residential Life and Learning, Facilities Services and the Office of Community Relations — with access to many types of data will be gathering information to provide a context in which conversations about housing can be carried out.

“We’ve agreed to spend some time gathering data so we can be well-informed about our current housing stock; … concerns or needs [and] some financial models of what things cost,” Campbell said.

She added that the condition and size of each dorm will be considered, as well as the available data on student satisfaction and preference.

A broader group including faculty, staff, students and administrators will be assembled in the fall to examine students’ current living situations and to identify the demand for on-campus and off-campus housing, Harris said.

Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Students John Barker explained that another of the university’s goals with this group is to work toward developing a four-year residential experience.

“It could mean that some of our students live … near [but not on] campus, it could mean that we have more activities for them … so we can create better community,” he said

Because about half of juniors study abroad and most seniors tend to focus on what will come after graduation, juniors and seniors tend to be less represented in the on-campus community now, according to Barker.

“What we have right now is really a two-year residential experience,” he said.

Campbell added that there are also concerns about the conditions of existing dorms, as many of them are old and can be renovated and modernized.

“We’ll try to look at this comprehensively,” Campbell said, explaining that they wanted to consider many people’s opinions and thoughts, understand the options and their associated costs and the advantages of organizing housing in certain ways.

Barker believes that the working group is important, as it allows voices from across the campus to be heard in discussions about how to create community and best allocate the university’s resources.

“We want to work toward a more inclusive campus that recognizes all of our students and gives them the kind of spaces they want to have,” he said, adding that the working group should be a “disparate group of people from across the community who represent different interests,” including student leaders from different classes and administrators with knowledge about available resources.


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