News roundup: Top headlines of last year

Students protesting in support of dining workers are pictured on March 5. (Kyle Lui / The Tufts Daily)

Bookended by the national midterm elections in November 2018 and the end of the Tufts Dining workers’ contract campaign in April, the past academic year was rife with Tufts-specific controversies as well as large-scale events. The following is a rundown of the biggest stories on the Hill last year. 

August and September

In late August, the Class of 2022 arrived on campus as Tufts’ most diverse class of incoming first-years ever at that time — now, the Class of 2023 is even more diverse.

The start of the academic year was marked by Ayanna Pressley’s historic defeat of Representative Michael Capuano in the 2018 Democratic Primary for Massachusetts’ Seventh Congressional District, which includes Tufts. In the following months, Pressley would visit the university for a Tisch College of Civic Life lecture and a childcare panel, as part of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s “Speaker in the House” series. She is the first African-American woman to serve in Congress for Massachusetts.

The fall also saw several changes to spaces on and around campus. Tufts began its year-long renovation of Barnum Hall, while Tufts Housing League pushed back against the university’s announcement of a new tiered housing system that raised prices for higher-quality student housing.

Construction continued on the Green Line Extension, leading to the year-long closure of the Ball Square Bridge in Somerville.

The university administration overhauled its student code of conduct and followed up with students to solicit feedback. These revised policies led to protests in October, eventually leading to a policy change in December. 

Ahead of Election Day, student activists pushed to support transgender rights through the Yes on 3 campaign. Later, the Somerville Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the campaign’s resolution.

On Sept. 21, 2018, the university announced that it had renewed its contract with the Confucius Institute despite growing controversy around the institute’s ties to the Chinese government.

October

On Oct. 2, 2018, journalist and Saudi expatriate Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul, prompting Tufts professors to reconsider how they taught about the kingdom. 

The Office of Residential Life and Learning hosted the first event in its semester-long series of information sessions on off-campus housing, headed by new Assistant Director for Housing Operations Angelic Sosa

This month also saw increased activism against sexual assault. In anticipation of Homecoming weekend, Action for Sexual Assault Prevention by Tufts Men hosted a discussion on toxic masculinity. In a rally in front of Goddard Chapel, students gathered at the Cannon, painted with the phrase “We Believe Survivors,” in response to Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. 

The FIRST Resource Center, which supports first-generation, low-income and undocumented students, celebrated its grand opening. Arts and Sciences graduate students ratified their first union contract, and Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate passed resolutions in support of transgender rights and Tufts Dining workers’ rights to unionize.

November

Nationally, the most notable event of this month was the Nov. 6, 2018 midterm election. The Tufts Daily’s election coverage outlined local races to watch and described Massachusetts ballot questions. On election night, students gathered for a watch party in Hotung Café.

While Tufts turned much of its attention to issues beyond the university, events on-campus set the community on edge. Tufts community members demonstrated when a Tufts Dining manager alleged that she experienced retaliation for comments she made in the Tufts Observer. Posters with the message “It’s ok to be white,” which has been linked to white nationalism, appeared overnight on get-out-the-vote signs on campus on Nov. 1. Students continued to protest housing policies, and J Street U petitioned Tufts Hillel to include a Palestinian speaker on its Birthright Israel trip. 

Several high-profile speakers visited Tufts, including environmentalist Bill McKibben; former Representative Steve Israel; SoBe beverage brand founder John Bello; Republican strategist Anna Navarro; Michelle Obama’s former communications director, Maria Cristina González Noguera (LA’97); Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; NBA champion Kevin Love; and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

December

Tufts installed solar panels on the roof of Lewis Hall and announced changes to the housing lottery process. Responding to student backlash, the university rolled back a requirement that students register large protests with the Office of Campus Life, turning it into a recommendation.

January

The dining workers’ union continued negotiations with representatives from Tufts in a four-hour meeting, but reached no agreements. Dining workers and student activists on Tufts Dining Action Coalition held an emergency community meeting to review the state of negotiations.

In a Tufts Daily op-ed on Jan. 16, Latino Center director Julián Cancino announced his departure from the university. Also on Jan. 16, Tiffany Filler, who had been a doctoral student at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, was expelled for alleged grade hacking, which she denied.

Nathan Foster (LA’18), who had campaigned for an alumni seat on Tufts’ Board of Trustees, was not chosen for the ballot. 

On Jan. 24, after a photo of a student in blackface circulated on the internet, the Tufts community erupted in backlash. 

With the goal of implementing the recommendations the Student Life Review Committee made in spring 2017, the Board of Trustees created a subcomittee to focus on student affairs.

Tufts received a record amount of Early Decision applications for admission to the Class of 2023.

February

Andrew Shiotani was hired as the new director of the International Center, replacing Jane Etish-Andrews, who had retired in October after leading the Center for 35 years. Kamran Rastegar was named the new director of the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, replacing Lisa Lowe, who now teaches at Yale University.

With construction completed on Miller Hall and underway on Houston Hall, some juniors and seniors moved into the houses designated for the university’s second phase of its Community Housing project.

TCU Senate pushed for gender parity in university leadership and called on Tufts to make voter registration a part of its Student Information System

Activism remained a theme. University President Anthony Monaco wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Education that criticized Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed changes to Title IX sexual misconduct policies. Students and non-Tufts activists demonstrated when Raytheon, a weapons contractor, visited the Career Fair. Hundreds of students delivered letters to Ballou Hall in support of dining workers’ negotiations. A walkout commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting.

Adjusting to new university requirements barring first-year students from fraternity recruitment, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta and other Greek organizations recruited new members last spring. Tufts announced its plans to make former fraternity Theta Delta Chi at 123 Packard Ave. into a residential hall starting this fall.

On Feb. 13, posters with offensive images and anti-Israel messages defaced Tufts Hillel, prompting a community-wide response.

A Tufts lecturer resigned after he was arrested for secretly photographing a nude person at the Harvard University swimming pool. 

Four candidates competed for two open seats on Tufts’ Board of Trustees.

March

During the first week of March, the International Club expanded its annual Parade of Nations event into a week of activities celebrating international identities. This week of events followed on the heels of the second-ever Sex Health Week, a series of seminars and discussions hosted by the student organization Sex Health Reps. March also saw the first-ever Global Tufts Week, which celebrated international engagement. 

Court documents filed at the end of January by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with allegations against the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma prompted responses from the Tufts administration and graduate students at the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences. Later, a TCU Senate resolution addressed Tufts’ “complicity in the opioid crisis” and asked for clarity regarding the “oversight of trustees and advisors.” Following these inquiries, Tufts announced a review of its relationship to Purdue Pharma, led by attorney Donald K. Stern.

After more than 800 people attended a picket for dining workers, the union voted on whether to strike on March 14. Students and staff braced for a strike that was averted when workers ultimately arrived at a temporary agreement with the university.

TEDxTufts highlighted speakers’ passions at Mosaic in Motion, its annual conference. For the sixth year in a row, Tufts was named a top producer of Fulbright winners.

The university slated renovations for Bush, Tilton and Harleston Halls for summer 2019. A glitch in the housing selection process led to the cancellation of 700 rising sophomores’ housing selections.

Tufts continued to negotiate a new partnership agreement with Somerville, which some hoped would address requests for more payments from the university to the city.

Tufts also announced changes that would improve the accessibility of the Swipe it Forward food bank program, which collects unused meal swipes. 

April

Tufts Dining workers unanimously ratified their first contract with the university.

The Experimental College hosted a debate on the future of cannabis use and legislation. Interfaith leader Eboo Patel discussed the state of interfaith engagement in America. 

TCU Senate opted to partially fund the Hall Council and Residence Hall Association initiative, set to be implemented this fall, which creates committees of elected first-year residents who will develop programming for first-year residence halls.

Staffing changes on the Hill included the appointment of Rachel Kyte as the dean of the Fletcher School, Alastair Cribb as the dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Annie Soisson as the director of the Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching. Linell Yugawa retired as the director of the Asian American Center, following the departures of Julián Cancino from the Latino Center in January and K. Martinez, director of the Women’s Center, a year prior.

Senior Shannon Lee won the TCU presidency with close to 60% of the vote. Her contestant was Phil Miller, also a senior.

A new student group, Sack Sackler, formed to publicly oppose Tufts’ ties to the family.

Eggings and pro-Trump slogans on the Cannon, which were painted over slogans honoring those killed in the Great March of Return by Students for Justice in Palestine, raised tensions on campus. 

Tufts Admissions accepted the Class of 2023, its largest class yet. 

May

An armed robbery in Davis Square on May 1 rocked Tufts’ neighborhood. The suspect was caught and apprehended at the end of May in Rhode Island.

Hidden cameras in a bathroom in Harleston Hall ignited student responses and a Tufts University Police Department investigation.

Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon and Muslim Chaplain Celene Ibrahim left the university for appointments at other universities. 

Investor Lori Roth and entrepreneur Kenneth Fan won the election for the two slots on Tufts’ Board of Trustees.


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