Four years of university provide many opportunities for widespread change, both in the lives of students and the institution itself. The experiences of the Class of 2020 are no exception; throughout its time on campus, our university experienced drastic changes in favor of improving student life, preserving positive institutional values and the rights of all community members. The progress at Tufts during the Class of 2020’s college years and the class’ role in advocating for these changes is worthy of pride and recognition by our entire community.
The Class of 2020’s time on the Hill developed as one of moral integrity, seen through student activism and university decisions over the past four years — notably, the choice to cut ties with the Sackler family for its clear role in the U.S. opioid epidemic. After years of student, alumni and community advocacy, Tufts made the ethical decision to remove the Sackler name from all buildings, symbolizing the university’s acknowledgment of the extensive harm the family caused to many in its promotion of OxyContin. This decision marked a point of progress, a signal of morality as well as the fire behind Tufts student voices.
The university held itself accountable to recognizing and acting upon the environmental implications of its actions as well. Buildings on Tufts’ campus, including Sophia Gordon Hall and the Science and Engineering Complex, earned LEED certification, meeting comprehensive sustainability standards about building materials, water savings, energy efficiency and waste management.
This environmental responsibility continues with the university’s recent plan to address the divestment from fossil fuels, honorably and tirelessly advocated for by Tufts student groups such as Tufts Climate Action; in response to these efforts, the university created the Responsible Investment Advisory Group to assess its ties to the fossil fuel industry. These steps reflect both the efforts of the student body over many years and the opening of university ears to student voices demanding a more sustainable campus. These positive steps must continue in further divestment and the certification of all buildings on campus, such as the Joyce Cummings Center.
This community advocacy spans beyond the environment, headlined by the fight for fair contracts for Tufts Dining workers. In the 2018–19 academic year, Tufts students fought for equity by standing alongside dining hall workers in solidarity, conducting strikes to raise awareness for the need of a new contract. The university responded to these commendable efforts, signing the first collective bargaining agreement in June 2019 and marking the formal recognition of workers’ demands projected by dining hall workers. While the contract still needs to be further improved, this event marks a true example of the Tufts community, including both students and administration, coming together to support equity and justice — a moment to be remembered by our graduating class for years to come.
The Class of 2020 also witnessed significant administrative change to the Tufts on-campus housing system. In the last four years, Tufts addressed some of the pervasive student concerns about restricted on-campus housing capacity and outdated quality by constructing its Community Housing development as well as renovating Miller, Tilton and Houston Halls, among other dormitories. Complementing these efforts, the Office of Residential Life and Learning shifted the housing lottery from an averaging system to a “take-the-highest-number” system, protecting student wellness, minimizing exclusion and promoting interconnectedness within the student body. Despite these strides made to ensure equitable housing, problems remain within the system; the recently implemented tiered housing presents a significant threat to inclusivity and financial accessibility on our campus.
However, the student body observed issues in fostering this interconnectedness, specifically within the Greek life system. As early as fall 2016, students fought admirably to highlight concerns with Greek life — and many saw these concerns as worthy of the system’s abolishment. Activism prompted an investigation and led to the remodeling of the Greek life system in an effort to promote inclusivity and safety. As a result of these efforts, Tufts joined the Hazing Prevention Consortium and decided to only allow students in their second year or above to rush in 2017. The Inter-Greek Council later created the Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force and the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in an effort to hold Greek organizations accountable for their actions and prevent future misconduct. Although not complete and currently failing to implement sufficient sexual assault training, these changes made Tufts a safer and more inclusive environment for all students — and in the process, permanently changed a driving component of student life on the Hill.
Calls for inclusivity and defense of shared values also shine through the Tufts community’s response to policy changes put out by the Trump Administration, which immediately caused widespread student calls for action. In the face of threats to DACA, many students — including those in the Class of 2020 — voiced powerful concern, and in turn Tufts recognized the need to protect undocumented students. This fall, Tufts, along with 164 other universities, signed onto an amicus brief against the DACA repeal, asserting the values affected community members bring onto campuses and standing up for fundamental human rights. Complementing this action, University President Anthony Monaco released a statement detailing his support of DACA and Tufts’ duty to protect all students, documented or not.
Monaco also released a letter submitted to the Department of Education and similar statements reaffirming the university’s “shared interest in eradicating sexual misconduct at Tufts, supporting survivors and all others affected by sexual misconduct, and maintaining a process that is fundamentally just for all” under threat of the recent, horrifying Title IX regulations. These messages from our student body and university leadership represent a positive response to changes within our country — prioritizing open communication, safety and moral responsibility.
The Class of 2020’s time on campus consisted largely of positive change and affirmation; however, while beneficial steps, these changes prove imperfect. We look forward to another four years of development, feeding on the activism, integrity and advancement of the last. We expect and encourage the university to follow this trend by divesting from fossil fuels, LEED certifying all buildings, addressing financial inaccessibility, reverting tiered housing and further supporting survivors and marginalized students. By doing so, the Tufts administration validates the efforts of the Class of 2020’s years on the Hill and shows its commitment to the moral evolution of our community and an equitable, secure college experience for all students.