University President Anthony Monaco announced the appointment of a Student Life Review Committee to examine the culture of undergraduate student life on the Medford/Somerville campus in light of recently-exposed issues with the university’s Greek life system in a Dec. 22, 2016 email sent to Tufts community members.
Structure and Goals of the Committee
Monaco wrote in the email that the committee will begin its review this month. It will holistically examine Tufts undergraduate student life with a focus on residential strategy, student groups and Greek life, Monaco explained.
“I will ask the committee to report to me on its findings and recommendations for how we can strengthen student life and enhance its contributions to our students’ wellbeing, personal growth, and sense of connection to a vibrant Tufts community,” he wrote.
Susan Murphy, who until June 2015 served as vice president of student and academic services at Cornell University, will chair the committee, according to Monaco’s email.
While the committee has yet to meet, Murphy told the Daily in an email that she believes the issues mentioned in Monaco’s statement are of concern to institutions across the country, and she admires Tufts for deciding to assess them in a holistic manner.
“I’m looking forward to working with the committee to gather input from the Tufts community, particularly students, and to develop a deep understanding of student life that will help the university enhance its student experience,” Murphy told the Daily in an email.
Monaco also wrote that Board of Trustees members Deborah Jospin (LA ’80) and Daniel Doherty III (H ’03) would be vice chairs of the committee.
Jospin said she is excited to hear input from students and other members of the Tufts community as the committee begins its work.
“This is a valuable opportunity to examine the student experience comprehensively by looking not only at Greek Life but also other student experiences as well,” she told the Daily in an email.
Doherty also said that he is looking forward to being a part of the committee.
“As President Monaco said in his message to the community, our student organizations bring a lot of positives to our community, while at the same time, there are certain aspects of student life where we have the opportunity to strengthen our approach,” he told the Daily in an email.
Chief of Staff for the President’s Office and Assistant Secretary of the Corporation Michael Baenen said that he will not be a sitting member of the committee, but he will assist it in certain capacities. He added that he is excited to see what the committee can accomplish.
“I expect to work closely with the chair, vice chairs and other members to make sure that the process runs smoothly and that they have the background information and data they need for thoughtful and informed deliberations,” Baenen told the Daily in an email.
The committee will also consist of faculty, students, staff, parents, alumni and representatives from the Medford and Somerville communities, according to Monaco’s email.
Tufts Panhellenic Council President Meaghan Annett said the committee is a step in the right direction, adding that the Greek system at Tufts is long overdue for review.
“I think it’s a really good thing that we have a review going so we establish a baseline for where we’re at, so that way we can know what changes to make and when we have made those changes, when we know that we’ve reached the progress that we want,” Annett, a senior, said.
According to Executive Director of Public Relations Patrick Collins, the university’s last comprehensive review of the Greek life system was conducted over 10 years ago.
Monaco wrote that he is optimistic about what the committee will be able to achieve.
“I believe that the committee will find much that is positive in our campus culture on which to build, while offering a chance to significantly strengthen our approach to meaningfully engaging students in co-curricular life,” he wrote.
Status of Greek Life
Meanwhile, Tufts is continuing to investigate the reports of hazing and sexual misconduct in Greek life organizations that were mentioned in previous messages to the Tufts community, Monaco noted in his email.
On Nov. 8, Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon, Dean of Arts and Sciences James Glaser, Dean of Engineering Jianmin Qu and other Tufts administrators announced in an email that they were investigating allegations of hazing and sexual assault that were brought to light in a Tufts Observer opinion piece released the day prior. Later, in a Dec. 2 email, these administrators said that four fraternities had been issued cease and desist orders by that point due to more reports.
According to an Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life policy, Greek life organizations with cease and desist orders are banned from holding any social events, recruitment efforts or non-approved all-member meetings.
According to Collins, Tufts has received additional accusations of misconduct involving Greek life organizations since the original November reports and has suspended standard chapter activity in five more fraternities and sororities, bringing the total number of groups with suspended activity to nine.
“Once the investigations have been completed, we will know more about whether an individual fraternity/sorority is able to resume its normal activities or if further action is necessary,” Collins told the Daily in an email. “There are a variety of sanctions that chapters could face depending on the nature of the violations, ranging from various levels of probation to loss of recognition.”
Collins could not comment on the specifics of the allegations, but he said they were serious.
“We can say that [the allegations] involve troubling actions that range in severity and involve hazing, sexual misconduct and alcohol policy violations,” he wrote.
Annett said that regardless of whether an organization has received a cease and desist order, the issues of hazing, discrimination and increasing diversity that have been focused around Greek life apply to every student group at Tufts.
“I think it’s a really cool moment to be in leadership in Greek life because we have the opportunity to make a lot of changes and positive changes for Greek life now and for the coming years after that,” she said.
Collins also thanked student leaders like Annett for “[suspending] social activities and recruitment at this time while the university undertakes needed investigations, puts in place enhanced training for leaders and participants in Greek Life organizations and lays the groundwork for positive changes in the social climate.”