Specialty housing is a hallmark of Tufts. Having the opportunity to engage with those that face common experiences results in stronger bonds and more welcoming communities. The sense of unity on campus is dependent upon the university’s willingness to provide such social spaces; so far, Tufts has made a deliberate effort. The Student Life Review Committee Report, released in September 2017, recommends the creation of “more dedicated social spaces that are central to campus and can be used by different groups and organizations throughout the semester, thereby establishing inclusive social opportunities and alternatives to fraternity parties.” The university has been working vigorously to carry out this recommendation, and we commend Tufts’ concerted effort to reallocate these spaces. It is crucial for the administration to continue utilizing available space, such as empty fraternity houses, to promote the student groups and organizations that do so much to advance diversity on campus.
The expansion of the Asian American Center is a perfect example of this desired reallocation of space. Ana Sofía Amieva-Wang, a junior and the Asian American Center’s intern in fall 2017, told the Daily that the center’s initial space was inaccessible and therefore unable to foster community. Next year, the Asian American House and the Asian American Center will be separate entities. The Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) has named the 110s suite in Hillsides Apartment as the temporary location of Asian-American identity-based housing. With its newly freed space, the center will be able to hold larger-scale community-building events and group meetings, making it more welcoming and comfortable. This extension of space is critical to helping minorities feel properly represented at the university.
The current Rainbow House is another community building that does not have the proper physical location to adequately provide for marginalized voices on campus. Tufts is committed to providing Rainbow House with a facility for the 2018–19 academic year, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Chris Rossi told the Daily in an October 2017 article. As Rossi acknowledged, the house is “an indispensable part of Tufts.” In light of “homophobic bias incidents in residence halls” mentioned in the Daily article, this transition is absolutely crucial.
What makes this decision even more emblematic of progress is the space Rainbow House is moving into: 45 Sawyer Avenue, formerly the Pi Delta house. Pi Delta voluntarily dissolved in January 2017, rather than resolve allegations of misconduct. Granting this space to the LGBT Center, a community that has needed it for so long, is a step in the right direction.
The Student Life Review Committee Report rightly addresses that the transition into first-year life is particularly difficult for students of color and first-generation (first-gen) students, who still face exclusion on campus. The facility in works for first-gen students, with plans to open in fall 2018, would aim to help those who may not have the navigation tools to find their social and academic niche. We hope the university allots a sizable house with a central location to signify the importance of the first-gen center, and further, the importance of first-gen students.
The progress being made towards improving inclusivity on campus is promising and absolutely necessary in light of past controversies. The disciplinary statuses of various fraternities have left large vacancies on campus, and the university should continue to reallocate the dead space to deserving groups on campus. Whether or not you are in favor of Greek life, there is undeniable value in uplifting marginalized voices by allocating space to other groups and dispersing social capital to clubs that aren’t fraternities.
Going forward, the Tufts community should recognize the work of organizations like the Group of Six, that exist to promote social identities of all kinds. These groups greatly impact the sense of community at Tufts through valuable discussion and leadership and allow for all students to learn more about diverse perspectives. Therefore, it is imperative that the university continues to provide and expand these resources to facilitate positive social space and representation.