JumboLife brings substance-free alternative to Tufts social life

The executive board of Jumbo Life, an initiative being promoted by the Dean of Student Affairs to plan big weekend events on campus that are fun and safe, pose for a photo at Hotung Café on Sept. 25. (Angelie Xiong / The Tufts Daily)

New student group JumboLife will host its first event, GLOW UP, on the Res Quad on Sept. 30. JumboLife aims to create an inclusive and substance-free nightlife scene at the university by organizing large-scale parties involving visual arts, culinary experimentation, student performances and live music, according to Chief Event Organizer Max Cooper.

Conceptualized and created by Cooper, a junior, JumboLife’s primary goal is to revitalize campus social life, according to the program’s page. JumboLife plans to host a variety of events inspired by students and focused on showcasing student talent.

Cooper explained that he created JumboLife following his personal experiences with alcohol and social life on campus and his internship at the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. He described Tufts’ social life as dangerously reliant on private organizations, thereby excluding large groups of students or forcing them to conform to a single definition of “fun.”

“The outsourcing of the mainstream social life networking opportunities was all given to privatized groups [including Greek life],” Cooper said.

Cooper feels that this kind of privatization inevitably abets problems like greed, classism and ableism.

Cooper said the goal is for JumboLife events to always be free, so all students can attend regardless of their financial circumstances.

Following his internship at the university this summer, Cooper approached Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon with the idea for JumboLife. The program is fully funded by an anonymous donor, who donates funds to the school strictly for the purpose of creating a more engaging and inclusive student social experience, according to McMahon.

“We want to create a new avenue for people to meet each other, especially first-year students, especially people new to campus,” she said. “We want them to have a chance to come and have fun and hang out together, in a way that is the students’ definition of fun.”

The emergence of JumboLife comes at a time when the university is reconsidering social life on campus, with the Student Life Review Committee releasing its findings and recommendations earlier this month. Their final report found a lack of inclusive campus-wide traditions, as well as the dominance of organizations like Greek life in the the university’s social scene.

“Work with student leaders to create and support activities that can be cultivated as campus-wide traditions,” the report recommended.

Cooper conceptualized the program prior to the report’s release, and he noted that JumboLife is not intended to act as a replacement for Greek life or the traditional party scene at the university. Instead, JumboLife would act as an alternative social scene for students seeking a different kind of nightlife.

“I think there is still space and there always will be space for off-campus parties, house parties, etc.,” Cooper said.

However, Cooper hopes JumboLife can provide an alternative for those seeking a different kind of atmosphere.

“The main thing that people should be doing is going to parties that are thrown by people they really care about, the kind of party that they want to have, and to engage in the kind of stimulating, network-building, creative, artistic, interesting event that they’re looking for.”

Director of Health Promotion and Prevention Ian Wong also recognizes a need for spaces on campus that welcome students who choose to refrain from heavy drinking.

“I think if you ask students where there’s a party on a Friday night, they might know,” Wong said. “If you ask them where all the students who don’t drink or drink very little will hang out, it’s not quite as easy to say.”

While Cooper said JumboLife is student-run, the organization is also working closely with both Wong and Ashley Austin, associate director at the Office for Campus Life (OCL)

“I meet with Max regularly to go over our event planning process and policies, just as I would any student organization, to help aid in the execution of JumboLife’s events,” Austin told the Daily in an email. “In the future, I will be continuing to assist JumboLife until they become another one of our relatively autonomous student organizations.”

Cooper also sees potential for JumboLife to host events in conjunction with other groups.

“Max and I have talked at length about using JumboLife to work collaboratively with other student organizations to connect different events to the mission of safe, sober late night spaces,” Austin said.

The event this Saturday, GLOW UP, begins at 6 p.m. and will include performances from student bands TK and the Adams Squa, The Alewives, Coastal Children, Bluewell and the Smoking Babies, Cooper said. He also noted Tufts Culinary Society and T86 will provide food for the event, and a group of artists led by sophomore Isabella Kiser will offer glow-in-the-dark face and mural painting. AfterGLOW, the substance-free after-party, begins at 9 p.m. in Hotung Café and will feature music spun by student DJs Arden Fereshetian and DJ TK, according to Cooper.