Since the Student Life Review Committee (SLRC) released its report last September, the committee has been making progress on implementing the suggested changes and plans to revamp social life at Tufts.
The report, identifying problems and outlining recommendations, focuses on improving life at Tufts across seven specific areas: safety and wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, campus-wide community, first-year experience, residential experience, Greek life and space.
Notable changes have been made in the areas of physical space and safety and well-being, according to Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon. She spoke about the university’s commitment to opening up more space for student use.
“[A] huge piece is 51 Winthrop … twice as many student groups reserved that space than in past semesters … because the fee for student use went from $300 to $50,” McMahon said.
McMahon also said that upcoming renovations to Houston and Miller Halls would maximize space and improve the freshman experience.
Alice Shaughnessy, a special projects administrator in the Dean of Student Affairs Office who is helping spearhead these changes, further detailed what Tufts is doing to improve its use of space. Shaughnessy said that improvements include moving Rainbow House to 45 Sawyer Ave starting in the 2018–2019 academic year, changing the Asian American Center into a non-residential space while offering separate Asian-American identity-based housing in Hillside Apartments and creating a First Generation Student Center (F1rst Center) located at 20 Professors Row. Shaughnessy also mentioned the new pre-orientation program, Building Engagement and Access for Students at Tufts (BEAST), which will be available for future incoming first-years. BEAST aims to help students navigate the transition to college, and is targeted toward first generation students.
These changes to accessibility are in order, senior Ania Ruiz explained.
“I have an English lit class under the basement of … Jackson Gym and there’s a dance class during that class,” Ruiz said. “Space has been an issue my entire time at Tufts.”
Shaughnessy also addressed the postitive changes student leaders of Greek life are making, including starting a fundraising campaign for a Panhellenic Scholarship.
McMahon addressed the university’s perspective on Greek life.
“We want to invest in having a stronger partnership with Greek life leaders and other student groups,” McMahon said.
Isabel Freedman, a first-year, shared support for rekindling Greek life.
“It would be nice if Greek life came back,” Freedman said. “It’s annoying how they’re not able to have that many parties.”
McMahon also said that along with this stronger partnership between the administration and Greek organizations, students will no longer be allowed to rush until the fall of their sophomore year, and Tufts will focus more closely on addressing hazing.
“We think, sophomore year in the fall, people are going to have more self-awareness … of what they want from their Tufts experience,” McMahon said.
Kevin Kraft, director of community standards, said the university is reviewing its alcohol policy to ensure that it balances encouraging people to call for help when necessary and holding them accountable for underage use. Additionally, administrators are improving the process for conducting investigations into alleged student organization misconduct, Kraft explained.
McMahon mentioned that Tufts will join the second cohort of a national Hazing Prevention Consortium. The consortium, she explained, will put Tufts administrators in contact with anti-hazing researchers. She added that her office will be sending out a survey this spring to undergraduates to get a better sense of student attitudes toward hazing.
Furthermore, McMahon said that her office has taken concrete steps toward adjusting the student Code of Conduct, explaining that her office is making an effort to get student input on current policies.
McMahon shared her vision for the future of student life at Tufts.
“I want people to be engaging with intention and authentic, vital passion,” she said. “The goal for [us] is to create a really dynamic, vitally engaging environment for students.”