Around 100 people attended a community block party at Nathan Tufts Park on Sunday. The block party, hosted by Tufts Housing League (THL), along with Tufts Progressive Alliance (TPA) and Tufts Student Action (TSA), sought to bring together Tufts students and residents of Medford and Somerville to discuss a housing situation on campus that has become a source of increasing discontent.
Representatives from THL, TSA, Tufts Climate Action (TCA), Somerville and Medford branches of Our Revolution, West Somerville Neighborhood Association, and Somerville Stands Together gave speeches, according to THL member Connor Goggins. He said that Nathan Foster, (LA ’18) who is running for a trustee position at the university, spoke as well.
The block party served primarily as an outlet for THL, TSA and TPA to inform the student body of steps being taken at an administrative level to change the current housing system on and off campus, according to Goggins, a sophomore.
“The purpose of the block party [was] to raise awareness about what is being done with these issues,” Goggins said. “A lot of people acknowledge that [there are] issues happening but a lot of people don’t really know what is being done. We spoke about our specific issues and how we all had common ground on coming together and using that strength to … push change from Tufts [administration] and Somerville and Medford.”
The block party also allowed members of the Tufts community to converse directly with homeowners from Medford and Somerville impacted by Tufts’ off-campus housing developments, according to Goggins.
“Getting Medford and Somerville involved is important,” Goggins said. “There [are] a couple groups that are already involved, but getting any community member that’s interested is something that we want to encourage. Tufts people were definitely engaging with Medford and Somerville people. It was definitely a mix of all communities.”
Senior Amira Al-Subaey called for more communication between Tufts students and surrounding community members, saying that Tufts’ housing changes also impact these residents.
“As Tufts housing infrastructure continues to stay stagnant despite increased enrollment, local residents have paid the price through increased rents: a result of Tufts’ gentrification,”Al-Subaey said. “It’s vital that we build in coalition with community members to achieve a solution which would allow Tufts students adequate and safe housing, and [a solution where] long-term residents of our neighboring communities aren’t forced out of their homes.”
Goggins said that THL’s founding principles include a goal of advocating for more accessible housing at Tufts.
“[THL is] meant to address the increasingly stressful housing situation on campus,” Goggins said. “We address the displacement and gentrification of the surrounding communities, the increasing rent costs around here — all the issues that surround housing at Tufts.”
A July 23 email from the university, which announced the implementation of a new tiered housing system in the 2019–20 school year, prompted THL to release a petition and engage members of the extended Tufts community, according to Goggins.
“We’ve really used the announcement of tiered housing as an impetus to get people involved because it really provokes a lot of strong reactions,” he said.
Goggins explained that THL is trying to make sure everyone who could be affected by Tufts housing policy is aware of the issues.
“Keeping everybody in the Tufts community informed as to what’s happening and giving them chances to get involved, like this picnic [we had] this weekend, is something that we want to do,” Goggins said.
Al-Subaey explained that TSA helped THL in hosting the event.
She said that TSA’s goal of building students’ power in relation to the financial burdens of higher education fits well with THL’s work.
“TSA believes housing justice is a crucial part of our work; especially as the university introduced it’s new tiered housing policy which disproportionately targets low-income students,” Al-Subaey told the Daily in an email.
Jake Zaslav, a THL member, said that while the new Tufts housing system provides more beds, it may limit on-campus living options for students who cannot cover the increased costs.
Goggins added that THL has a meeting with the university administrators directly involved in the new housing platform within the next week, but that change at an administrative level has been minimal. Specifically, he explained that THL would like the tiered housing FAQ resources shared by the university to give a better explanation of the new housing system.
“Due to the petition, we are meeting with the administration regarding the lack of details [relating to tiered housing],” Goggins said.