Repeal and Replace: Landlording

Dear Fellow Students,

Last week, I wrote about the importance of transparency in university decision-making. Our community faces an unprecedented housing crisis, and as with any other multifaceted issue, opacity serves only to obstruct mutualistic solutions. Tufts Housing League, Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate and many other groups on campus have been involved in negotiations and activism to improve the quality of life on campus, and while progress has been made, the problem persists. Rooms meant for two are converted to sleep three; students pay more and more for off-campus housing; Tufts resists moral and comparative arguments against a tiered system. Landlording of this nature is cruel and ineffective; current policies and actions are not enough to solve the problem. We must repeal the university’s toxic landlording and replace it with a transparent, solution-oriented body and process for addressing this truly dire issue.

As Tufts continues to add students and the MBTA expands the Green Line to Medford, our communities will face multiple upward price pressures. Tufts has a responsibility to its students to actively seek a solution to every effect of the housing crisis: overburdening our host communities, overcrowding in our dorms, price and rent increases and more. There are right ways to do this and wrong ways.

So far, Tufts has taken some half measures, including adding beds to existing rooms and purchasing a fraternity house. By adding beds, Tufts creates forced triples, crowding halls and dorms designed for far fewer students. The resulting living situation is nothing like what incoming students expect, results in an unhealthy environment and stresses infrastructure. Adding beds has clear negative effects which undermine it as a viable solution to our crisis. I approve of Tufts’ purchase of 123 Packard, since it will have a positive net benefit as a new social and living space open to the Tufts public; however, it does little to address housing concerns. The students living there now will be replaced next year with other students. Even with added capacity, the increase in housing options will be minimal.

Real solutions have been proposed. TCU Senator Grant Gebetsberger signaled his support for a popular option: a new high-capacity dorm on Fletcher Field, especially with the Green Line extension compounding existing pressures.

“Tufts needs to guarantee on-campus housing for students, and that is only possible with more dorms or high-capacity apartment-style buildings,” Gebetsberger wrote via instant message. Other solutions have been proposed as well, such as adding stories to current dorms, and almost anything will be better than packing extra students into rooms. So how do we get there?

Negotiations by student groups, including resolutions by TCU Senate, have made the university aware of student concerns, but ultimately the situation is unresolved. We need transparency, solution-oriented dialogue, and decisive action.

I urge President Monaco to form an executive committee to address housing solutions. Its meetings should be open to the public, and it should be populated by students, professors, board members, administrators and community representatives. The back-and-forth needs to end. Opacity must be peeled back. Toxic landlording must end. Action must include all of us.