University President Anthony Monaco sent out a letter yesterday to members of the Tufts community, urging individuals to reaffirm their commitment to Tufts’ founding values at a time of “significant uncertainty” in our country. Citing acts of post-election hate and intimidation that have occurred on campuses — including Tufts — nationwide, Monaco made clear that hostile, hate-filled language and behavior has no place at our university.
We must first acknowledge that our administration’s commitment to encouraging kindness, safety and inclusivity in the wake of what has been an emotional, confusing, even frightening week for many is incredibly admirable. The university has made efforts to make our campus a safe space for individuals of varying opinions and responses, holding discussions for reflection, sending out tips for mental health maintenance and promoting a fair and open dialogue both inside and outside of the classroom.
However, we must also acknowledge the irony of being asked to “reaffirm our commitment” to Tufts’ founding values when, in light of recent on-campus events, many individuals feel uncertain about some of our university’s traditional institutions and their principles. Following the Nov. 7 Observer opinion piece calling for the abolition of fraternities, there has been a notable movement arising in our university community as individuals have come to outwardly question the moral standing of our Greek system and the values it promotes.
Tufts’ first fraternity was established in 1855, just three years after the university was founded, making Greek life an integral part of the university’s social fabric and traditions. For many individuals, this traditional system — one that is seen by many as promoting ideals of elitism, exclusivity, misogyny and homogeneity — is not one that we should be reaffirming. While Monaco’s letter by no means encouraged a commitment to these principles, we cannot ignore the fact that they have in fact become an integral part of our community. By sanctioning Greek institutions for years on end, our university has — unconsciously or not — promoted Greek values and claimed them as part of our university.
And while Monaco lauds Tufts for being more inclusive than other universities when it was founded in the 19th century, the use of language that disregards the lack of progressive inclusivity on campus today has the potential to fuel exclusionary institutions on campus. Certainly, our Greek organizations and our administration have taken steps in recent years to respond to growing concerns about a lack of diversity and the fact that this community was built for and by privileged groups. But in spite of these changes, levels of diversity and inclusivity at our university are nowhere close to perfect, and numerous students still report explicitly racist, homophobic and sexist comments made both at Greek-organized events and on campus at large.
It is because of this that many individuals may not currently see Tufts as the safe, inclusive space that the administration wants it to be. While the university is right to encourage positive, productive and nonviolent responses to recent events, we cannot pretend that Tufts is a flawless domain grounded in inclusivity and noble founding ideals. We cannot pretend that the ongoing issues with Greek life on our campus do not have a significant and important connection with events happening on a broader scale in this country.
Monaco’s letter reinforced the exemplary ideals for which Tufts strives, but the administration and community are still falling severely short when it comes to making Tufts the safe, inclusive place we want it to be. Rather than sugarcoating our founding ideals, our university should elucidate the concrete action that will be taken in the upcoming weeks and months to uphold our unwavering values.