To say that 2016 has been a turbulent year at Tufts is an understatement. Following the unforeseen results of the presidential election, controversies surrounding Greek life, a divisive free speech resolution and the tragic passing away of one of our very own professors, in many respects, 2016 was disheartening at the very least. And yet, despite these difficult moments, 2016 also saw a culmination of efforts to promote positive changes on campus. From the janitors successfully obtaining a fair contract agreement to University President Anthony Monaco’s pledge to support and protect undocumented students to the celebration of Tufts’ first Indigenous People’s Day, we have welcomed a variety of positive and progressive changes amidst a backdrop of campus-wide and national divisiveness and unease.
Our campus found reason for optimism during a year of turmoil. In response to hateful dialogue and threats to inclusivity on the national level, we banded together to effect change in our own community. From volunteering for civic programs on campus to casting ballots and organizing rallies and protests, student involvement and activism have thrived this year.
The strong student response to issues that have been brought to light — in the form of op-eds in campus publications, open discussion groups, Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate resolutions and discussions with administrators — have demonstrated our students’ ability to work proactively to promote change on this campus.
Following the controversy surrounding our Greek organizations, student leaders, councils and the administration have come together and committed themselves to reworking existing policies and bettering the Greek community for members and non-members alike. While a consensus about how to combat issues within the Greek system has not yet been reached, our campus is engaging in a much-needed dialogue about how to address spaces in which not all students feel safe or included.
Furthermore, the university’s commitment to protect its undocumented students proves that Tufts has the capacity to enact change on the campus level that can have national exposure. Following a student-organized walk-out, the administration heard student voices and responded. The Tufts Labor Coalition worked alongside 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to promote fair wages and working conditions for valued members of our campus community. Members of the Tufts community have proven that they are active and resilient in the face of challenges.
If anything, 2016 was the year of the student. It was the year that we fought for and won the rights of on-campus workers. It was the year we celebrated and respected indigenous peoples by instituting Indigenous People’s Day and local efforts to support the fight against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It was the year we fought for undocumented students in the face of national threats to citizenship. It was the year we continued to strive to bring down environments of exclusivity and misogyny on our campus.
We must continue the fight to uphold the university’s stated values, which can only happen if the student body continues its trend of active engagement in the pursuit of a safe and equal campus for all. As students, we have already laid the groundwork for 2017 to be a better year so long as we keep up the effort.