This semester, the first of my sophomore year at Tufts, has helped put my time at Tufts in perspective. In particular, I have come to appreciate everything that makes freshman year special. Last year, I explored many different types of classes, even taking an ExCollege course my first semester. I also I had the opportunity to work for an NGO. Perhaps most importantly, I made meaningful new friendships. While everyone’s freshman year is different, it is vital in shaping the remainder of one’s time at Tufts.
An especially memorable aspect of freshman year is going out on the weekends. After a long week of hard work and many hours spent in Tisch, going to a party can be one of the best ways to enjoy quality time with friends. While partying can bring people together, I could not help but notice all throughout last year that something was missing. Something was keeping the Tufts party scene from the being the inclusive community that it should be — not all of the fraternity houses at Tufts are handicap accessible. Despite the many efforts Tufts takes to promote inclusivity, the lack of handicap access to each of Tufts’ fraternity and sorority houses is abhorrent. Whether cognizant of their biases or not, refusing to give the entire Tufts community access to these organizations clearly reflects an ableist agenda. The administration is harming not only the physically handicapped, but also Tufts’ Greek community and the student body as a whole.
While obviously not for everyone, going out can be one of the most memorable parts of coming to college. Wandering around campus searching for a party with all of your new best friends provides a sense of freedom. First-year students, finally free from the rules imposed on them by their parents, get to set their own personal rules and boundaries for the first time. However, this is not the case for all students. Those who are physically handicapped do not get to experience the same freedom. They may be free from their parents, but they are still bound by the impediment they possess. I refuse to believe this is just. Tufts should be a place where all students, regardless of sex, race, weight, gender, political beliefs, eye color, ethnicity, height or physical capabilities should be able to feel comfortable. Students should be able to get the most out of Tufts that they can in their four short years here.
Tufts’ Greek community forms a significant part of the student body. Around a quarter of students are affiliated with a Greek organization. Tufts fraternities and sororities raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity, create lifelong relationships and form a crucial part of Tufts’ social scene. Impeding any student from benefiting from what Tufts’ ten fraternities and four sororities have to offer is unacceptable. While the damage done to handicapped students is clear, it is important not to forget that the lack of access hurts the fraternities as well. The fraternities are always looking for new members who they think will positively contribute to their brotherhoods. The brothers of any of Tufts’ fraternities may be missing out on their next great president due to this lack of access. Adding handicap access to all of the fraternity houses would allow participation by students who previously had none. A more inclusive Greek community is a stronger Greek community, and one that is more inclined to contribute to the Tufts community as a whole.
This issue is not merely a moral issue, but a logistical one as well. Students living in one of Tufts’ Greek houses who suffer a debilitating injury during the year should still be able to access their room. Few issues on campus are as important as allowing access to all of Tufts’ resources for all students. How can we celebrate Jumbo pride when Tufts is not even entirely accessible to all Jumbos? I call on the administration to establish a committee dedicated to improving access to all of Tufts’ facilities, particularly focusing on Tufts’ fraternities and other special interest housing. Even simple steps, such as adding ramps to all of the Greek houses, would be a dramatic improvement on the current situation.