Today, we continue our two-part editorial suggesting New Year’s resolutions for our university to adopt. By addressing institutional issues that affect us every day, Tufts can become a more inclusive, fair and accessible community. Tufts, these should be your goals for 2020:
Support Medford and Somerville communities through higher PILOT payments
Tufts must address its encroachment on the Medford and Somerville communities this coming year. As Tufts negotiates a new payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with the city of Somerville, it is important that we acknowledge the impact that Tufts has on surrounding communities. Although we saw a significant increase in Tufts’ contributions to PILOT payments in the 2019 fiscal year, this amount only represents about 8% of hypothetical property taxes for Somerville, instead of the 12.5% that the community expects. Higher PILOT payments in the next fiscal year would be a great first step in addressing community issues, for these payments could fund manifold municipal projects and services. With enrollment increasing each year and rents rising, Tufts has more of an impact on Medford and Somerville than ever before. Supporting our surrounding communities is a vital duty.
Freeze Tufts tuition to lessen student financial burden
Following increases in recent years, Tufts raised tuition again by 3.8% for the 2019–20 academic year. Despite Tufts’ commitment to fully meet demonstrated financial need, funds provided often fall short of fully supporting students, as Tufts includes student loans in its financial aid packages. Demonstrated need is highly subjective, and schools use different calculations to determine how much a family can pay for education. With the significant increase in Tufts’s cost of attendance, financial accessibility becomes a severe challenge for middle- and low-income students. Tufts must implement a tuition freeze policy, ensuring entering first-years will pay the same price for their college education during their four years; this policy is not unique and significantly increases financial security.
Make Tufts financially accessible to all students
Beyond the high price-tag of a Tufts education lies hidden everyday costs of living. Every semester, students must purchase textbooks and online programs for their classes, and the expenses for these mandatory items often add up to several hundred dollars. Living away from home entails having to do laundry, which, on campus, means paying fees for washers and dryers. Creating laundry and textbook stipends, as the university did for printing fees, will help alleviate these financial burdens. Further, expensive on-campus dining options contribute to food insecurity for low-income students and upperclassmen living off-campus. Tufts should provide healthy options with low prices at the Commons Marketplace, Hotung Café and Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run in order to ensure that all students can eat a well-balanced meal without financial consequences.
Appropriately react to and prevent discrimination on campus
This semester, the Tufts community faced multiple hateful acts targeting minority communities. In response to these events, University President Anthony Monaco announced the development of two Bias Response Teams (BRTs). This was a step in the right direction, as these teams will directly respond to incidents of discrimination on campus, independent of the investigative and reporting processes usually involved. We hope that these teams will work to proactively address acts of hatred and demonstrate zero tolerance for discrimination on campus. In line with Kerri Greenidge’s proposals, Tufts must integrate anti-discrimination efforts into the curriculum. Further, Tufts must react to acts of hatred by immediately condemning them and initiating proper investigations and disciplinary actions.
Like all New Year’s resolutions, these concerns are opportunities for change, progress and improvement. We call upon Tufts to commit to these resolutions and to the students that make this campus what it is. Let us start this year on a positive note, address these important problems and set the stage for a year of improved student, workplace and community relations. Happy New Year, Tufts.