Op-ed: Shannon Lee for TCU President

I first met Shannon during my senior year of high school, when we were both assigned as “big sibs” — think FOCUS leaders with much less training but more posters — for a first-year homeroom. I knew her as the person who made the first-years laugh and get settled in, but little did I know she would soon be one of my closest friends at Tufts. Shannon was dedicated to serving her fellow students in high school, and although we have both changed in many ways at Tufts, her dedication to others has never wavered.

Shannon’s passion, commitment and tireless dedication to others has translated into real, tangible change. As a low-income, first-generation student, I am one of many who has accessed meals through the Swipe It Forward meal bank, a project that Shannon spearheaded. When I served as Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate’s Asian American Community Senator, I worked with Shannon to relocate Asian American housing outside of the Asian American Center. This opened the entire building up as a student center focused on community building. Shannon has advocated for more support not only for students with marginalized identities, but for professors of color as well. She has worked on resolutions calling for reforming the exam policy, increasing the number of gender-neutral bathrooms and much more. Shannon holds a true, genuine care for students of marginalized identities, and that care is translated not only through her ideals and words, but her actions. She works hard to make seemingly idealistic goals into a practical reality. It is easy to feel disconnected from Senate; I spent my entire first year unaware of who my senators were or what they even did. While Senate always strives to improve and connect with more students across campus, I am confident that Shannon represents me, and I know that her work has affected many of those who may not even know it.

I cast my vote for Shannon knowing that as a first-generation college student and woman of color, Shannon brings tenacity and resilience, and advocates on behalf of communities that have often been overlooked. I have served with Shannon on the University Priorities and Budget Student-Faculty Committee and seen her in meetings with high-level administrators. Every time I listen to her speak, I am struck by how she balances firm advocacy with compassionate understanding. She navigates others’ stubbornness with listening and care, asks insightful questions with a firm manner that demands an answer and creates solutions by finding commonalities and reaching understandings.

I have seen Shannon frustrated, I have seen Shannon overjoyed and I have seen Shannon confronted with countless obstacles of many names. Yet I have never seen Shannon give up on her fellow students or herself. Shannon is someone who leads for and with others. She loops in students, knowing that Senate is not the only vehicle for change and that our voices are stronger when a variety of perspectives and backgrounds are at the table. Every question she asked in meetings, every project she pursued and every resolution she co-authored served to lift up others, whether it was her fellow senator co-authors who she mentored or students with a cause who may have never voted in a TCU election before. Shannon’s extensive record of accomplishments speaks for itself, but ask anyone she’s ever worked with — they’ll speak to her incredible ability to serve and unite.

As I come to terms with the fact that I’m leaving Tufts, I can’t help but reflect on how much Tufts has changed since I first stepped on campus. It’s incredibly powerful to know that student power, advocacy and community building has led to the creation of institutions such as the Group of Six and the FIRST Resource Center, programs like Swipe It Forward and additional pre-orientations and community spaces and policies. At a point where the Tufts community can seem incredibly fragmented, morale feels low and vacancies in department and administrative offices are adding up, it’s scary to wonder whether Tufts will change for the better or worse. However, I know that under the leadership of a visionary, bold, genuine advocate like Shannon, Tufts will continue to be a better home for students that creates equity, opportunity and community.