Editorial: Students should improve community relations through action

It is easy for us to get stuck in the “Tufts bubble.” Many students, especially underclassmen who live on campus, do not involve themselves in the world beyond Tufts. But, as members of the Medford/Somerville community, it benefits both our campus and its surrounding neighborhoods when students learn more about issues in our community, make an effort to be good neighbors and partake in activities beyond campus.

One way to start is by joining conversations in Medford and Somerville either informally, or formally though groups like Medford Conversations. Tufts professor Dale Bryan helped organize Medford Conversations in 2015 in order to create a space where people with different backgrounds and outlooks, from students to lifelong Medford residents to members of political and religious institutions, can have conversations about pressing issues in the city. In the past three years, the group has discussed race and ethnicity, living costs and connections within the community.

Medford Conversations co-chair and Tufts alum Alison Kuah told the Daily in an interview about the divide between Tufts students and members of the Medford/Somerville community.

“I think there is a divide … because a lot of students don’t make a point to get to know the people that they’re kind of invading,” she said.

Kuah said she believes that student involvement in the wider community can help remedy the issue.

“There are ways that students can take responsibility for that and leave the Tufts bubble. There are ways that the Medford community is trying to have opportunities for students to actively participate,” Kuah said.

Kuah also said that students need to be involved, as exploring communities and getting involved in them is central to the experience of moving to a new place. “The most important reason why you should get involved in the community is because Tufts students are a part of Medford and Somerville. To behave like that is not true shows arrogance,” Kuah said.

There are many issues in Medford and Somerville that present opportunities for student involvement.

Lifelong Medford resident and first-year Tamar Brandes-Krug expressed the need for student awareness of issues affecting the community. Based on her experience growing up in Medford, Tamar noted a lack of student representation and engagement in her community.

“There is a lot of racism in Medford,” Brandes-Krug said. “We need representation in the community from students, especially from students of color.”

While the Office of Community Relations at Tufts tries to bridge the gap between Tufts and its neighbors in Medford, Somerville and Chinatown, its efforts are at times complicated by its official affiliation with Tufts. Avenues for engagement that lack official affiliation with Tufts are available, and can sometimes be more effective than formal initiatives. Student organizations like Tufts Housing League (THL) and Tufts Labor Coalition foster solidarity between students and other Medford and Somerville residents through political, social and labor organizing. Events like THL’s community block party offer a real opening for students to escape the Tufts bubble. Solidarity between students and community members is impossible without sustained, meaningful contact between us and our neighbors.

We are Somerville and Medford residents, and we should start acting like we have a stake in these towns.