Monaco hosts town hall meeting on Medford/Somerville campus

University President Anthony Monaco spoke about how President Donald Trump’s administration was affecting university policy, the implementation of the Student Life Review Committee and plans for renovations at a town hall meeting in ASEAN Auditorium on Thursday.

The meeting started on a light note, as Monaco praised Tufts’ current third-place standing in the Learfield Directors’ Cup.

“We’re so good at athletics now that Matt Damon has decided to come work out in our fitness center not once, but twice,” Monaco said, referring to Damon’s trips to the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center on March 15 and 19.

Monaco then talked about what Tufts has done to support its faculty, students and staff following Trump’s actions on immigration.

“We have done much to make statements in support of [the international] community, as well as our Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students, making it clear that we would not cooperate with immigration officials who wanted information or wanted to detain our students or faculty unless they had a judicial review,” Monaco said.

One way that the university is showing its support, according to Monaco, is with a video from Provost David Harris’ office that will feature local mayors, Harris, students, staff, faculty and Monaco himself welcoming international applicants to Tufts.

The university president said that several community forums had been held to help students, staff and faculty understand and navigate how they might be affected by the executive orders and that the university had signed on to several amicus briefs to fight them.

“We are keeping a close eye on these policies and pushing back as hard as we can,” Monaco said.

Monaco mentioned that the restrictions on H1-B visa processing would make it difficult for international postdoctoral fellows, faculty or staff to continue to work at the university. He noted that although there was a slight decrease in the number of international applications for graduate and professional programs, the application deadline of Jan .1 predated the executive orders.

“But we’re worried about what yield we might get from those candidates once they’ve been accepted,” Monaco said. “We’re also worried about what the cycle might look like next year.”

Another consequence of the Trump administration, Monaco noted, is a possible decrease in the university research budget, which had already been cut by the federal government.

“We suffered, as many institutions of higher education, from three years of sequestration,” Monaco said.

According to Monaco, these budget cuts affect the schools’ research and the potential for collaboration across schools. He expressed hope that bipartisan support for research could encourage Congress to oppose further budget cuts.

Monaco then discussed the progress of the Mental Health Task Force, which was created last fall.

“I know at the undergraduate level in particular there’s been huge outreach to the community this semester, with many different student groups to get their feedback, and we hope that’ll come together with some recommendations in the fall for us to then think about implementing,” Monaco said.

Monaco also talked about the Student Life Review Committee.

“This was triggered, I think, in particular by some hazing incidents that were reported in the Greek fraternity system, and also in the sororities, but we also see these types of behaviors occurring in other student organizations, and also issues around diversity and inclusion and accessibility of these different student organizations to the entire student body,” Monaco said.

He said that the Student Life Review Committee was created to assess student life holistically and offer recommendations on policies that could improve and rethink organizations involved in student life.

“I’m hoping to get these recommendations by May and share them with the Board of Trustees, and then bring them back to the community at the start of next semester to discuss them further before implementing them,” Monaco said.

He touched on future campus renovations and the newly formed faculty senate, before the meeting ended with a question and answer session.