The Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), a key institution in addressing problems of sexual assault on campus and providing vital resources, will be moved to a new office at 196 Boston Avenue from its current location at Ballou Hall. The move, which both Director of Public Relations Kimberly Thurler and Director of the OEO Jill Zellmer believe will allow the hiring of additional staff, pushes a hugely significant office for victims of sexual assault and rape to a location intended to be reached by the Boston Avenue shuttle. By moving this office so far off campus, instead of somewhere on campus that could provide similar amounts of privacy and space for expansion, the administration makes a symbolic decision that considers the OEO unworthy of a position at the center of the school.
The OEO is a major resource for sexual assault victims on campus. After the elimination of the Sexual Assault Coordinator position last year, an office like the OEO is of singular importance in dealing with a problem that has proven its malicious resilience. The psychological trauma of rape and sexual assault rends the lives of students on college campuses everywhere. Ignoring its significance in this way is unfortunately an all too common occurrence at colleges, a phenomenon in which, sadly, Tufts takes part.
The new location is multiple blocks away from the Medford/Somerville campus. The sensation of walking or taking a shuttle to a far-off corner of Medford away from campus implies for victims the feeling of being pushed off to the side more than having privacy. The long march to a drab office is not private – it is lonely, privy to feelings of abandonment from a community that already had, at best, limited sensitivity for victims of rape and sexual assault. The symbolic power of moving the OEO so far away is such that the administration displays its disconnection from a problem that has a presence that lingers just below the surface, yet, when it comes into discussion, hears platitudes rather than action. If the administration wanted to, if it cared enough to give the energy, it could make room on campus. This does not, however, appear to be an option – a true shame.