TCU Senate passes resolutions calling on Tufts to divest from private prisons, require all fall 2021 courses to offer in-person component

The Academic Quad is pictured with cotton candy skies. Ava Iannuccillo / The Tufts Daily

Tufts Community Union Senate passed two resolutions in a virtual meeting on Sunday night. The first, put forward by Tufts for a Racially Equitable Endowment, calls on Tufts to divest from private prison corporations. The second, which was introduced by the Education Committee of TCU Senate, calls on the university to offer in-person components for all fall 2021 classes.

TCU Senate began the meeting by hearing one supplementary finding request.

Tufts Asian Student Coalition requested $1,070 to pay for an honorarium to illustrator Deborah Lee, who is holding a virtual illustration workshop sponsored by the club, and workshop art supplies. Seven members of the Allocations Board voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and one abstaining. The request passed TCU Senate by acclamation. 

Tufts for a Racially Equitable Endowment’s resolution for private prison divestment passed unanimously, with 26 senators voting in favor, none opposed and none abstaining

“TCU Senate calls upon Tufts University to establish a Responsible Investment Advisory Group (RIAG) to confirm the $72,000 already invested in private corporations, pursue divestment from these holdings (whether direct or indirect), and investigate investments in other corporations that uphold the [Prison Industrial Complex],” the resolution said. 

The resolution also asks Tufts to “establish an official process for the intentional and ethical investment of its endowment funds in companies that promote equity and social justice.”

Cameron Rusin, a representative from Tufts for a Racially Equitable Endowment, explained why TCU Senate should adopt this resolution, even though Tufts only has a relatively small amount of money invested in a private prison, and it’s not a direct investment.

“Even though it’s difficult to do and maybe not a huge percentage of the endowment, if Tufts [wants to] improve itself as an institution and create itself as an anti-racist university, then it has to go, no matter what,” Rusin said.

The Education Committee’s resolution calling on Tufts to require that every fall 2021 course offer an in-person component was also presented to the TCU Senate. 

The resolution cited an exit survey conducted by TCU Senate at the end of the fall 2020 semester, which found that the student body viewed the virtual academic experience unfavorably and experienced feelings of social isolation from peers and professors. 

Class of 2024 Senator Claire Bolash, a member of the Education Committee, explained why TCU Senate should pass the resolution. 

“Because Tufts University has already accepted the greatest risk of COVID spreading on campus, which is having students in residence halls and having students in off-campus houses, I do not see a reason why there should not be significant steps towards making sure every student who elects to be on campus should have an in-person component for their course and for every course,” Bolash said.

Some senators expressed concern that offering an in-person component for every class would put remote students at a disadvantage.

Education Committee Chair Iyra Chandra clarified that the resolution mandates that professors offer an in-person component, but does not require that students participate in those components.

“[The resolution] just means that every class should have some optional offering that’s in-person, so there will be no class that’s fully virtual or fully asynchronous if students want to do something for the class in person,” Chandra said.

Bolash echoed Chandra.

“I personally don’t see this resolution as in any way exacerbating the difficulty for students who are taking courses online … I personally only see it as being beneficial for those students who are able to go in person,” Bolash said.

Sixteen senators voted in favor of the resolution, eight opposed it and one senator abstained. Although the resolution passed, several senators expressed lingering doubts about how it would negatively impact remote students.

“A lot of individuals that I’ve known, who [are] low income or might not have all the resources as others, have to be at home with the family, and they might not have the benefit of coming in person … it might lead to some dichotomy between different individuals with different identities,” Class of 2022 Senator Deepen Goradia said.

Later in the meeting, TCU Senate Diversity Officer Mathew Peña announced that the TCU Senate Community and Diversity Committee has been renamed the Committee on Community Diversity and Inclusion. Peña, a senior, explained that the new name better reflects the committee’s work with Tufts’ Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion and the six identity-based centers under its umbrella.

“The meaning of the name had [to do] with the fact that we want to be a lot more in line with what our work is dedicated towards and be a bit more in line with what our centers are,” Peña said.

In an open forum at the end of the meeting, Class of 2023 Senator Jalen Little commented that the vote on the resolution to require an in-person component for all fall 2021 classes had largely split on racial lines, with students of color overwhelmingly voting against the resolution.

“In the resolution you claim to include the voices of students of color, but then in the vote it’s so clearly driven by racial lines. It can end up sort of feeling like you’re not really listening to students of color, especially the ones that are here and supposed to be working with you,” Little said.

Little said that students of color would likely be most impacted by the stratification between in-person and remote learners if the resolution goes into effect.


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