TCU Senate passes resolution to expand TUPIT program, discusses anti-Asian racism

The Tufts Community Union Senate passed a resolution calling on the university to give incarcerated and formerly incarcerated participants in the Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College (TUPIT) the opportunity to earn a Tufts degree and discussed recent anti-Asian racism in a virtual meeting on Sunday evening.

Elections Commission Chair Mark Lannigan opened the meeting by speaking about the TCU government elections that will take place in April. 

Elections for all positions within TCU Senate, TCU Judiciary and the Committee on Student Life will be held April 13–14. The TCU Senate presidential election will be held April 22–23.

TCU President Sarah Wiener encouraged the senators to recruit interested students to run for student government positions.

“Elections that are contested are always motivation for people to be extra committed to Senate,” Wiener, a senior, said. “So, if you have friends that are interested in running for Senate, talk to them about it.”

TCU Senate then voted unanimously to pass a resolution calling on Tufts to expand the TUPIT program. The program currently offers an associate’s degree from Bunker Hill Community College to its incarcerated and formerly incarcerated participants; this expansion would offer those students the opportunity to pursue a Tufts bachelor’s degree with a major in Civic Studies.

Claudia Guetta was one of the two TUPIT student coordinators who submitted the resolution. She explained the reasoning behind the resolution.

“[Participants are] taking the same classes that Tufts Arts and Sciences students do, so for equal credits we’re essentially … saying that these Tufts students deserve equal degrees,” Guetta, a junior, said.

Guetta expanded on this further.

“For us it really comes down to educational and racial equity,” Guetta said. “Tufts’ anti-racist mission is claiming to implement new education programs and revised curricula … and we see TUPIT’s work as furthering that [goal of] racial and economic justice.”

Faculty from the School of Arts and Sciences will vote on the resolution on May 14. Guetta and Alex Lein, another TUPIT student coordinator and co-author of the resolution, hope that TCU Senate’s unanimous support of the resolution will encourage faculty to vote to expand the program.

Next, TCU Senate read an abstract for a resolution submitted by Class of 2024 Senator Ritesh Vidhun and TCU Senate Administration and Policy Chair Ibrahim AlMuasher that would call on Tufts to require that all undergraduate students receive their COVID-19 vaccinations prior to returning to campus for the fall 2021 semester, barring medical and religious exemptions.

The abstract also calls on the university to provide vaccines for those students who otherwise would not have access. TCU Senate will vote on a full-text version of the resolution in the coming weeks.

TCU Parliamentarian Taylor Lewis then led senators in a discussion of proposed changes to the TCU Senate bylaws.

One proposed change would create the position of assistant diversity officer within TCU Senate. The assistant diversity officer would be elected from within the TCU Senate Committee on Community Diversity and Inclusion.

TCU Senate heard supplementary funding requests from two student organizations.

JumboCast requested $100 to upgrade their broadcasting software. Eight members of the Allocations Board voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and none abstaining. The request passed TCU Senate by acclamation. 

CheeHoo Hawai’i Club, a new student organization, requested $434 to fund four events, including a trivia night and a lei-making event. Eight members of Allocations Board voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and none abstaining. The request passed TCU Senate by acclamation. 

TCU Diversity Officer Mathew Peña called for a moment of silence for the victims of this week’s Atlanta shooting, six of whom were of Asian descent. 

“Just take a step back and actually recognize how much hurt and pain is currently within that community,” Peña, a senior, said. 

After the moment of silence, Peña led TCU Senate in a discussion about racism and violence towards the Asian American community. The senators discussed how anti-Asian racism is not isolated to the COVID-19 era, nor is it unique to any one century or geographic location.

“I’d also just highlight, on a personal standpoint, there are so many Asian people in your life who you know and love, who are scared for their own safety and/or for the safety of their loved ones,” TCU Vice President Grant Gebetsberger said. “That’s something to just consider in your interactions … right now because that’s something that’s really raw and scary for a lot of people.”