Last week, the Student Life Review Committee released its finalized report on the status of Greek life after seven months of investigation and discussion. This long-awaited report is an extensive and thorough examination of student life and social spaces. At 25 pages in length, the report outlines in detail its observations and recommendations for both Greek life and social life on campus. The findings truly demonstrate the effort the committee put into creating this report; they are not only comprehensive, but also uniquely accurate in describing social issues the Tufts student body faces.
While this effort is laudable, the report fails on several occasions to make actionable and tangible recommendations. The members of the Committee defend this by stating that the report is “only the first component of a significant, strategic investment in the undergraduate experience.” Although this may be the case, it is still disappointing to see that, after a year of debate and inaction, multiple challenges pointed out in the report are left essentially untouched. In many cases, the report lists vague recommendations instead of concrete actions.
There were, on the other hand, a handful of proposals that felt tangible, including recommendations to increase the effectiveness of pre-orientation programs. The report proposes “invest[ing] in Pre-Orientation to increase equitable access and safe, healthy experiences for incoming students” and creating a policy that would “require students to participate [in pre-orientation].” The suggestion is straightforward and implementable, and it would directly restructure first-year social life in a positive way. This kind of specificity is lacking in the rest of the recommendations.
At the same time, these proposals inadequately address the crucial issue of social life at Tufts: space. Space is the concluding topic tackled in the report, but it reoccurs throughout, particularly in the section on Greek life. First-years especially lack social space to congregate outside of Greek life. The report acknowledges the immense social capital fraternities possess due to “the central location of multiple large Greek houses on Professors Row.” The report deems this a challenge because “these prominent physical spaces contribute to and reflect the dominance of Greek life, especially in the form of fraternity parties, in the student social experience.” We concur.
And yet, after accurately defining the issues with such spaces, the Committee does not raise concrete proposals to transform the use of space as a way to shift social power away from Greek life. No matter where you stand on the Greek life debate, it’s hard to deny the virtues of having a more diversified social scene, where one group does not have a near-monopoly over campus nightlife. In coming reports and policies, we hope to see more fleshed-out recommendations and actions on how to use space to redistribute social capital.
Part of the issue of space is that Greek organizations have been able to maintain their houses — and thus their centralized location on campus — seemingly regardless of the behavior they have demonstrated. It would be extremely valuable, as the report recommends, to see a clearly defined set of standards for keeping a house on Professors Row. If these standards are not met, organizations (Greek or otherwise) should have to relinquish their house to a separate organization. It does not sit well with us that organizations guilty of sexual misconduct and hazing get to not only keep their housing, but also open their doors to the whole Tufts community.
Redistributing social spaces is not a new concept, and therefore should not be difficult to implement. In 2015, following the suspension of Sigma Nu fraternity, the chapter relinquished their house, and it was eventually converted into the Chinese House. This special interest house was given a larger, more central and more desirable spot on campus compared to its previous location in a Latin Way suite.
Even a space that is not a house could greatly influence social life at Tufts. An on-campus ‘pub,’ for example, which previously existed at Tufts, could function as a fun nightlife alternative to frat basements.
While this report did an excellent job defining abstract problems that hinder Tufts’ social life, there is still much to be done, let alone planned, to bring these ideas to fruition. We hope that this report is simply, as stated, a first step, and that in three years the Tufts student body does not have to read another report just like this one.