Op-ed: Tufts, take a look around, would you?

Hey Tufts — take a look around!

Tomorrow, Tufts University faculty will vote on whether to accept online course credits from other universities during the pandemic. It has been recently conveyed that it is unlikely the faculty will vote in favor of accepting online credits from any other college or university, though Tufts itself will offer online courses for credit. By keeping Tufts students tied down to Tufts, the university is only working to ensure its own financial security while blatantly disregarding the security of others.

The pandemic has challenged educational institutions at all levels, from kindergartens to graduate schools, and before this challenge is met with a consideration of financial and economic security for the university, a consideration of personal security must come first.

In March, teachers and professors had to adapt rapidly to online and virtual courses in order to keep students engaged and prevent a startling and unprecedented hiatus from formal education. With varying levels of care, academic administrations worked to adapt interpersonal learning environments to online formats.

This format, though less than ideal, embodied healthy reactivity, critical thinking and contextual change — pillars of a good education.

However, what made sense in March does not necessarily make sense for the indefinite future of the pandemic. Currently, politicians are deciding whether students and faculty should return to schools at all levels of the system.

A fear is that this decision-making process is all too rooted in economics rather than in genuine well-being. Not surprisingly, in today’s world, the two are somewhat muddled. Some may argue that the former begets the latter; however, can this really be so?

The transition to online courses elucidated that students are hardly treated equitably within a system that is meant to uplift them. When millions of students left their schools and universities in March, they had differing levels of access to resources critical to the completion of a school semester. These resources included computers, strong internet connection and stable home environments — resources many take for granted, and many still do not.

Despite tangible losses in the quality of their services, universities like Tufts continue to charge exorbitant tuition rates. No doubt, schools will suffer financial losses, just like the rest of us. No one can deny that these are trying times, but it is unsettling that in these times Tufts turns to institutional power in an effort to protect itself instead of protecting the individual members of its own community. 

As a Tufts student looking to take classes at home in order to avoid the enormous per-credit rate and part-time student tuition Tufts expects its students and their families to pay in the midst of a recession, Tufts’ prioritization of its financial security and student retention rather than the health and financial well-being of its community is particularly concerning to me.

Given the current uncertainty of our world, Tufts should instead reconsider the role it has to play in the well-being, safety, comfort and security of others. Perhaps, instead of a scramble for institutional security, these times call for a reevaluation of what security means and how universities, schools and individuals can work to create universal meaning for a term that is thrown around so often.