The Tufts Board of Trustees voted to create a Student Affairs Subcommittee in November in hopes of further progress towards the recommendations the Student Life Review Committee (SLRC) made in Spring 2017.
Mary Pat McMahon, dean of student affairs for the School of Arts and Sciences, said that Deb Jospin (J ’80), then a trustee and a member of the SLRC, led the creation of the committee.
According to the bylaws of the Board of Trustees, the subcommittee will exist under the larger Academic Affairs Committee, which previously was the main arena for Trustee input on student life.
Insiya Naim, the student representative of the Academic Affairs Committee, said that the decision would formalize student life as a focus for the Board.
“Prior to the introduction of this subcommittee, the Board’s agenda didn’t have a concrete section on student life, but now, through the subcommittee, we will be able to critically analyze what is helping and hindering student life,” Naim, a sophomore, told the Daily in an email.
The Chair of the subcommittee, Trustee Kalahn Taylor-Clark (J ’99, M ’01), said that the subcommittee would feature voices from the Board of Trustees, as well as those of students and alumni.
According to McMahon, the specific student and alumni representation on the subcommittee has yet to be decided.
Taylor-Clark explained the benefit of trustee input on student life.
“The value of having trustees addressing student life is that their leadership and commitment of resources are reflected in their abilities to understand where gaps exist and to identify holistic solutions to improving student life at Tufts,” she wrote in comments provided to the Daily by email.
According to the Tufts Office of the Trustees website, all of the trustees who will sit on the subcommittee are alumni of one of Tufts undergraduate and graduate programs. One, Maria Madison (J ’82), is a parent of two Tufts students.
The trustees are aware that their experience as students differs in many aspects from the life of current Tufts students, McMahon said.
“The Tufts trustees tend to have this really deep appreciation of the fact that there are aspects of the current experience that really resonate with their experience as undergrads, or graduate students,” she said. “They’re very open to the idea that it’s not exactly the same thing.”
Naim appreciated the trustees for being willing to learn from current students, saying that the subcommittee will be a great way for them to become more informed.
“I think that having student representatives on the Board, both graduate and undergraduate, will allow the board to understand the student perspectives that are prevalent on campus,” she said.
The subcommittee will look at student life across all five Tufts campuses, according to the bylaws.
McMahon said that the Trustees’ wide focus will help integrate her work on the Medford/Somerville campus at the undergraduate level with the rest of Tufts.
“They’re going to be helpful partners in contextualizing the work that we do, helping frame out why we’re prioritizing [and] what we’re prioritizing,” she said.
The long-term vision for student life at Tufts is the creation of a college experience that gives students social know-how, as well as academic knowledge, McMahon said, pointing to the trustees’ knowledge of trends in higher education outside of Tufts as something that she is hoping to draw from.
“I’m hoping that we’ll have some really good conversations about an organizing principle that looks at the connection around the ways people learn in formal settings as undergrads and [how] we think about the complementary learning that happens,” she said.
Naim and McMahon both discussed that changing student life at Tufts is a gradual process, rather than one that can be accomplished within a semester or two.
Naim is confident that the results will be worth it.
“It may be difficult for the improvements to show right away,” she said. “However, I do believe that with time and the right communication, there will be vast changes in student life on campus.”