Following K. Martinez’s decision to leave their position as director of the Women’s Center in April, six full-time staff members are currently serving campus cultural centers. There are currently staffing vacancies including the Women’s Center director, a temporary administrative position to be hired for the summer and a staff administrator at Bolles House to serve the Latino and LGBT Centers, both of which are located there.
Filling staff vacancies:
In light of Martinez’s departure, Fatima Blanca Munoz will transition from her role as a staff assistant split between the Women’s and Asian American Centers to serve as interim program administrator at the Women’s Center for the summer.
“My primary responsibility is to ensure that the Women’s Center operations run smoothly and that students continue to feel supported until we find a new Director,” she told the Daily in an email. “I will also be supervising and providing guidance to interns in addition to planning programming and leadership development plans, especially for Orientation 2018.”
A temporary staff assistant will be hired for the summer to take on administrative tasks at the Women’s and Asian American Centers due to Blanca Munoz’s interim transition, according to Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon.
McMahon explained that the director position should be posted by the end of May and that the committee will aim to have someone sitting in the directorship role in August for the beginning of the academic year. LGBT Center Director Hope Freeman and Nandi Bynoe, the incoming assistant dean of student affairs, will chair the search committee, which will also include students and additional staff and faculty members, she said. McMahon emphasized that students have historically played a role in most search processes throughout the Division of Student Affairs (DOSA).
Recognizing the need to fill the seat quickly, McMahon also stressed that the quality of the director will not be compromised for immediacy.
“We’re also going to search until we get the right person,” she said.
McMahon also referred to the other two vacancies, the staff assistant role at the Latino and LGBT Centers, and the temporary staff assistant position created due to Blanca Munoz’s role transition. The staff assistant role at the Latino and LGBT Centers has been vacant since Janin Alfonso left the position at the end of the fall 2017 semester. She acknowledged that this has contributed to a backlog of work and noted that the university will now seek to fill this role after the posting went live this month.
Freeman noted the importance of filling these vacant positions but noted limitations in doing so.
“I would say that getting these positions filled are very important to the university, but there are many different avenues that have to be considered; budgeting for monetary compensation, working with Tufts Human Resources, and finding someone that is a good fit,” she said. “It is a priority for the LGBT Center to make sure that anyone coming in to join our team is passionate about LGBTQIA communities and wants to work with us in creating more supportive and inclusive of LGBTQIA communities here at Tufts.”
Budget processes have been fairly static across DOSA since the division’s restructuring in 2016, McMahon said, noting that staffing resources are relatively low compared to other universities.
“Across the division, the staffing level is a third to half of what it would be at a peer school,” she said. “So as we think as a whole about how are we doing the work that we’re doing, how do we make sure that we’re sort of being thoughtful about the resources that we have and intentional about the work that we’re doing?”
McMahon noted her interest in enhancing the centers’ programmatic capacity and said that she is in discussion with the university’s budgeting office accordingly.
“There’s definitely a case to be made that we could really benefit from significantly more staffing, but I also have to think about stewarding the resources and the costs associated with that,” she said.
Student demand for increased staffing support
Students emphasized the importance of the center staffs in creating a comfortable environment and maintaining the daily operations of the centers.
The Africana Center is the only Group of Five G5 center with two full-time staff members: a director and a program manager. With the current vacancies filled, the other four centers would each have 1.5 full-time staff members.
Rising junior Adaeze Dikko, a peer leader for Students’ Quest for Unity in the African Diaspora (SQUAD), the Africana Center’s pre-orientation program, noted the essential role that Africana Center Director Katrina Moore and Program Manager Domonique Johnson play at the center.
“They definitely do a lot of behind the scenes work to make sure that the center is running and comfortable for students,” she said.
On April 16, the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on the university to prioritize filling the vacancies and increasing staffing at all of Tufts’ community centers, including the G5 and the International and FIRST Resource Centers. The resolution also supports measures such as improved resources and funding, and incorporation of anti-bias training throughout the university.
Students involved at centers have also called for increased support from DOSA and the university at large.
Asian American Center Programming Intern Ana Sofía Amieva-Wang, a co-sponsor of the TCU Senate resolution, also noted resource constraints at the Asian American Center, especially given the work following the decision to separate the Start House from the identity-based housing.
“The fact that there is just one center director, one full-time person working at the Asian American Center, it is sort of pretty alarming given all the work that needs to get done, and especially now,” Amieva-Wang, a rising senior, said.
Amieva-Wang noted that Linell Yugawa, the director of the Asian American Center, has undertaken many of the fundraising tasks associated with developing the center as a nonresidential community space.
“Someone needs to do that fundraising work, and that has been sort of put on the director for various reasons. [That] really has also shown me that … having one person there is so unsustainable,” she said. “Linell doing all the fundraising has also [led to] the cut down of student programming.”
Amieva-Wang noted that many of the centers’ essential tasks are often passed along to the student and part-time workers.
“It is really important to recognize not just that it is an issue to not to have an interim … director, but the work is still being done by the people who work here, whether that be intern staff, or Fatima, or [Graduate Assistant] Koko [Li], that work is still being done, regardless of whether that position is being recognized, or whether they are being compensated,” she said.
Women’s Center Intern Amanda Ng Yann Chwen added that students are concerned about this trend and the university’s prioritization of filling the positions because the directorship was left vacant for over a year following the departure of former Women’s Center Director Steph Gauchel in 2016.
“It feels like it’s easy for the institution to ignore our needs by not giving us an interim director or staffing things that we need and not giving them in time because they can be like, ‘you’ll manage, you’ve done it before, you’ll keep it together, you can run the center,’ which is really unfair because it’s not our job to run a center as students plus full-time staff,” Ng Yann Chwen, a graduating senior, said.
While Amieva-Wang recognized logistical constraints, she expressed hope for increased communication surrounding processes of filling these vacancies.
“There is very little transparency with students, especially, and I understand that it is very difficult because it is negotiating people’s jobs … but our concerns come from a place of really feeling under-supported,” she said. “At the end of the day, the centers are like all in a really precarious position … It would be really ideal that if students could get updates on what’s happening.”
Amieva-Wang noted that the administration has acted quickly in responses to Martinez’s departure, but the impact of this decision has still put a serious strain on resources within both the Women’s and Asian American Centers.
“That is something that is much larger than K. leaving … It really shows how little staffing there is, how under-supported they are, because things really did start falling apart, and feeling like a mess when one person left,” she said. “There is a much larger structural issue that is simply that there is not enough staff at the centers and that they do depend on this one person.”
Staff turnover at the G5 Centers
An April 23 article in the Observer discussed the frequent rate at which staff and faculty of color are leaving the university, including in the G5 centers. Martinez also called attention to this trend in their April 12 op-ed in the Daily.
“How many faculty and staff of color have left or are leaving Tufts University this year? How many of us have left over the past few years? Where are we going? Why are we leaving? Is this aspect of life for Black and Brown bodies on the campus being surveilled as much as others?” they asked in the open letter.
Ng Yann Chwen explained limited staffing constraints strain current staff members and ultimately lead to high rates of turnover.
“It’s not an individual problem with the centers, it’s not that people at a particular center are … not doing a good job,” they said. “It’s a structural issue of the institution denying us the basic resources we need … This causes a lot of burnout and stress, and that’s one of the main things that causes such a high turnover rate because these positions are not sustainable.”
McMahon acknowledged the labor-intensive nature of the G5 staff student-facing roles.
“People who carry multiple marginalized identities are asked to do quite a bit, and I’m cognizant of that,” she said.
Ng Yann Chwen stressed the importance of supporting the G5 centers for many students of marginalized identities. They noted a dichotomy in the administration’s marketing of the G5 centers as indicators of diversity without a corresponding level of support.
“[It’s spaces like these that are so underfunded … where I have found community and support and safety and care and refuge from the rest of everything that goes on,” they said. “Spaces like G5 are … fundamentally so crucial for students to be able to keep going here at an elitist, predominantly white university. You can’t admit us and not meet our needs.”
Dikko agreed that the Africana Center plays a critical role for many black students.
“Capen for some people is like home,” she said. “That’s where they run and [take] refuge from the rest of the campus. I’m really glad it’s that way for a big portion of black students.”
Blanca Munoz agreed about the importance of the centers in supporting students of marginalized identities.
“Supporting G5 means supporting students and ensuring they are able to thrive during their time at Tufts,” she said.
Minna Trinh contributed reporting to this article.