Tufts University, as an educational institution, is exempt from a variety of taxes due to its non-profit status. Essentially, Tufts pays less to federal and local governments because it is classified as a charitable organization. Instead of these taxes, Tufts uses payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to partially offset the lack of taxes paid to Somerville, Medford and Boston, and has been recently criticized by residents for failing to pay enough. This begs the question: How can we ensure we deserve this status? How can we do more?
Local engagement is invaluable and can do so much to further a sense of community and belonging between the student body and the citizens of Medford and Somerville. In a recent op-ed published in Wicked Local Somerville, Tufts’ Directors of Community Relations Rocco DiRico and Barbara Rubel praised the university for its continued support of the community through “mutually beneficial relationships.” It goes on to describe the financial support that Tufts has given, directly and indirectly, to the Medford/Somerville communities. Tufts has aided the community through increased job opportunities and the revenue that students provide local businesses.
It is important to note that this article came out in response to community members who have “raised questions about the university’s contributions to both cities” and want higher PILOT payments from the university. Knowing this sentiment is out there should encourage the Tufts administration and student body to do more.
More Tufts students should take proactive roles in the community; we should further volunteer in Medford and Somerville. This university is teeming with intellectually curious and driven individuals, and it is our responsibility as students at a university where our actions can have serious positive and negative impacts on our local community to have a positive impact and provide resources in any way we can.
For students studying political science or interested in civic life, volunteer in local campaigns. Get involved in future mayoral elections or sit in on town halls to find out more about the state of local politics in our community and speak out about issues that impact you as a student.
For those interested in education, join meaningful programs that provide important education services like Jumpstart or Peer Health Exchange. After all, students look up to us, and information — particularly about drinking and sexual practices — is so impactful coming from someone only a few years older. Community health majors, who have a required internship incorporated into their curriculum, can stay local and intern at the Medford Board of Health.
For those who want to pursue a career in medicine, volunteer at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. There are phenomenal hospitals in Boston and Cambridge, including Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital to name a couple, but let’s not neglect the necessity in our backyard. Let’s continue to be a good neighbor and give back by investing time rather than just our money. It is important to raise the communities that raised us. So, ask yourself — what’s my role?