The new, massive Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) being erected near Bromfield-Pearson and Anderson Halls, which is slated for completion in 2017, as well as the recently completed 574 Boston Ave. building and the complex at 200 Boston Ave. that was completed in 2012, all display the university’s admirable commitment to developing its STEM programs. The question should be raised, however, of why some of those spaces were not used for additional on-campus student housing instead. A dorm even half the size of the new 175,000-square-foot SEC would be enough to save a considerable number of students the stress of scrambling for off-campus apartments — certainly a worthwhile investment given the current local housing climate.
As an institution heavily focused on research, it certainly makes sense for Tufts to allocate resources toward the development of facilities to support such work. However, the intensive concentration on these projects does not indicate a careful balance of priorities. The Residential Strategies Working Group (RSWG) initiated last semester is a step in the right direction, and it will hopefully help to alleviate the stress that both students and community members have been subject to due to the housing shortage, but it emerged quite late; housing has been a major problem at Tufts since at least spring 2013. It is difficult to imagine that opening three new research facilities in five years is more urgent than opening even one new dorm in the same amount of time, considering the serious tension housing has caused.
While Residential Life has focused on providing students with information regarding off-campus living options, links to good websites for househunting and updates on changes in Medford and Somerville building codes, these efforts serve only to cope with, rather than resolve, an increasingly unsustainable situation. While this advice may have been enough before, the stricter enforcement of housing codes that limit off-campus living options. Alongside the rise in first-year enrollment, this applies pressure on the students and the community that could have been avoidable had the different needs and interests of all students been weighed more thoughtfully.
With the Green Line Extension also on its way, the changes that affected Davis Square from the ’80s — when the Red Line station was constructed — into the new millennium may happen all over again. Continued gentrification in the area is a moral problem that the university should not be making worse, but which will undoubtedly be exacerbated as the annual housing frenzy continues to strain and overvalue the limited local housing supply. The Tufts community should be working to smooth over relations and alleviate the pressure being placed on those who have lived in Medford and Somerville for far longer than most students have, but this will not be feasible if students continue to be left without sufficient opportunities to live on our campus.