Editorial: Thoughtful, decisive, transparent leadership is needed to stem the tide of hate

Last week the Daily urged compassion and action in the face of hate. The discovery of yet another act of hatred at Tufts, this time targeting the African American community, compels us to write again on the treatment of hate on our college campus. On Thursday, Oct. 10, University President Anthony Monaco and Provost Nadine Aubry shared that a sign in the African American Trail Project exhibit in the Aidekman Arts Center had been defaced, in “a shameful affront to the African American community.” Facing recurring hate at Tufts, our administrators must take decisive action towards community healing, prevention and transparency.

Monaco and Aubry took a good first step in the process of community healing by announcing the creation of Bias Response Teams in the same email on Thursday. These teams are reportedly intended to facilitate “community understanding, support, and engagement.” We do not know the scope or authority of these teams yet, and it has been made clear that they are “distinct” from the disciplinary process. Hopefully, these teams will be effective in facilitating discussions, collective action and healing within our community, but this cannot be the only action taken. In fact, Tufts already has many organizations dedicated to community understanding, support and engagement, including the Group of Six, Tufts’ identity-based centers which provide education and support across Tufts and within their respective communities. 

Part of the healing process on this campus must be supporting the extant organizations in their respective missions to support their communities. The LGBT Center, for example, which responded rapidly in support of victims after the incident of homophobia, is dedicated to “maintaining LGBT visibility on campus and providing campus-wide education on sexuality and gender identity as well as the effects of heterosexism, cissupremacy, and queerphobia.” In addition to setting up new teams to respond to prejudice, Tufts’ administration should dedicate additional monetary and public relations resources to the Group of Six so they are better equipped to address hate on campus head-on.

Further, the prevention process must begin in earnest. Tufts has resources dedicated to the prevention of hate, and mandates new students receive a brief lecture on bias and resources from the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO). Though these resources exist, they have not been part of any significant messaging campaign in recent weeks. In fact, messaging has been mild — in the three recent emails about “incidents of bias,” the word hate has appeared only once. Core to essential messaging will be calling these acts what they are: hate. Prevention means doing much, much more than sending reactive school-wide emails. Prevention means holding talks, events and speeches which encourage inclusivity and discourage prejudice. Prevention means mandating new rounds of bias training for students, either through the OEO or through students’ FYAs or CDAs. And prevention means transparency.

So far, the student body has been left in the dark. Following the reporting of the swastika, the carving of a homophobic slur and the discovery of vandalism at the Aidekman Arts Center, we have been told that investigations are ongoing. We have not, however, been informed as to whether any of the perpetrators have been caught, or if any have been disciplined. While the university has legal obligations to conceal the identity of the vandals, the Tufts community has a right to know if and how justice has been served. Knowing the penalty and knowing that the perpetrators have been caught will hopefully both serve as a deterrent for future would-be criminals, and would put our community at ease with the knowledge that those who have committed such heinous acts have been disciplined.

The Tufts community is reeling from this string of hate. Now, more than ever, we demand thoughtful, decisive and transparent leadership. Without a vigorous, community-oriented response there is little hope of putting an end to hate crime at Tufts. We commend President Monaco for setting up independent groups dedicated to responding to discrimination, but we also expect more and continued action in the face of these attacks.