The same morning the Supreme Court heard arguments for the case that could end affirmative action in America, Tufts students received an email affirming the university’s commitment to inclusive, holistic admissions.
“At Tufts, we celebrate diversity and recognize its power to enlighten, teach, and bridge differences,” University President Anthony Monaco wrote. “Indeed, it is foundational to our mission to provide transformative experiences for students, faculty, and staff in an inclusive and collaborative environment.”
These are worthy ideals that the university should aspire to achieve, yet, this semester, multiple incidents have shown that high ranking officials within the university’s administration are undermining this objective.
Over the summer, both of Tufts’ chief diversity officers, Joyce Sackey and Rob Mack, unexpectedly stepped down and pursued opportunities at other institutions. The Tufts Daily documented a rapid change in the reporting structure of the Office of DEIJ as well allegations of “a lack of transparency in the provost’s office and a culture that runs contrary to the university’s anti-racism principles,” per the article.
According to its website, the Office of the Provost is crucially responsible for “setting institutional and budgetary priorities that advance the university’s mission.”
In the absence of diversity and inclusion leadership at the upper levels of administration, the university must answer the question: With its most influential DEIJ-related positions vacant, how can it fulfill its purported commitment to anti-racism?
The provost’s office is not the only administrative office where alleged actions have contradicted the university’s stated values.
On Nov. 3, the Daily published an investigation detailing what multiple employees alleged to be a hostile work environment created in the Tufts admissions office under the leadership of Dean of Admissions JT Duck. Nine current and former admissions employees spoke with the Daily and described a “toxic” workplace culture featuring “questionable leadership, abrupt departures, retaliation and behavior from the dean that employees characterized as racist, sexist, transphobic and antisemitic.”
Employees allege that Duck both enabled and promoted this environment, ignoring reports of discrimination while using microaggressions.
One admissions employee recalled Duck “misgendering applicants and making jokes about pronouns.” These alleged acts of bias have directly affected the integrity of Tufts’ admissions process, with a former employee recounting that it felt as though Duck and directors of admissions had “less sensitivity to queer, trans and non-binary students.”
At least two employees have lodged formal complaints against Duck with Tufts’ Office of Equal Opportunity, which has hired the law firm McCarter & English to investigate these claims. Patrick Collins, Tufts’s executive director of media relations, maintains the use of an external law firm “is not evidence of wrongdoing; it is the first step in a fact-finding process.”
We are disappointed that alleged bias within admissions may impact prospective students who applied to Tufts believing in its mission of fostering an “inclusive and collaborative environment.”
On their own, these reports detail an allegedly hostile and discriminatory work culture. Taken together, they are evidence that the upper echelons of Tufts leadership may not reflect the university’s advertised values.
The university’s rhetorical invocations of a commitment to equity and inclusivity mean nothing if they’re not backed up by the university’s behavior. While we respect the ongoing investigation, the severity of the allegations demands action in the interim, especially given that the admissions office is actively reviewing applications.
University leaders must take real steps toward fulfilling their commitment to diversity and inclusion. In the case of the admissions office, this means placing Duck on leave from his role during this admissions cycle and until the investigation concludes.