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We, the members of the Student Advisory Committee to the Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience, enthusiastically applaud the work of the Task Force. We support its vision of a Tufts education and hope that students, faculty, administrators, and staff will come together to discuss implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations. In its attempt to create proposals to address broad students outcomes, the Task Force chose to offer recommendations that span the community and leave details up to those who would have responsibility for implementation. We agree that this approach was necessary, but we feel that there were many ideas suggested by students throughout the research and outreach process that should be brought to the community’s attention. We would like to present these ideas with the hope that the proper bodies in the community will consider implementing them.
Using Space To Promote Community
The Task Force report identifies improvement of space and facilities as key to addressing the themes of community, climate, and coherence and offers suggestions for new facilities that will promote community. We would like to underscore the importance of this issue. To further the Task Force’s goal of strengthening the intellectual atmosphere, we need spaces for students and faculty to interact and spaces for students to come together to share knowledge; to create community, we need to create places that will draw students out of their rooms and encourage them to interact. To create coherence of education and pride in Tufts, we need to create spaces that facilitate learning and make buildings desirable places in which to learn and live.
We make the following suggestions for creating spaces that will strengthen the sense of community on campus:
Ø Renovate dormitory common room space. Common rooms in dorms are presently underused because they do not contain study space, have nice furniture, or provide enough enticements for students to use the space, such as games or computers.
Ø Perform a comprehensive evaluation of athletic facilities and renovate them as needed. Noted weaknesses include a grossly inadequate amount of cardiovascular machines in the Fitness Center, a lack of spectator space at the pool, run-down squash courts, and run-down locker rooms in both Cousens Gym and the Baronian Field House.
Ø Create a student art gallery, possibly in the new wing of the campus center. This will encourage students to take pride in the accomplishments of others in the community and emphasize the value that Tufts places on student work.
The Task Force’s recommendations for improving research at Tufts and creating a four-year writing program will strengthen the intellectual environment, but we feel there is a major curricular issue that is not sufficiently addressed in the Task Force report. There is currently a divide between academics and co-curricular activities at Tufts. To improve the coherence of student life, we suggest several new curricular initiatives that encourage students to explore their interests in an academic setting and learn skills that will be applicable to their community activities.
Ø Create opportunities for students to do interdisciplinary capstone projects or theses or innovative academic projects based on extracurricular interests.
Ø Offer a class on leadership, possibly through the Experimental College.
Ø Consider creating classes based around a speaker series, such as the Leadership for Active Citizenship class previously offered through UCCPS. Turning a series into a class ensures that there will be an audience for the lectures and gives students the opportunity for prolonged engagement with a topic. It also helps students to see how people have applied academic skills to their career pursuits in a way that a regular class cannot.
The Task Force report does an excellent job of stating the need to improve programming to bridge the disconnect between students and faculty and between students and each other. To achieve the Task Force’s goal of strengthening the community and transforming the social atmosphere, we would like to see programs created that address the social and personal needs of each class, in addition to programs that bring the community together as a whole.
Ø Create events that foster Tufts pride: Almost every senior will list Spring Fling and the Naked Quad Run among their favorite memories of Tufts. But, these and the matriculation/graduation candle ceremonies are the only traditions that exist at Tufts. Many students have called for the creation of new events that will bring people together as a community just to have fun and enjoy being at Tufts. Such events connect students to the University because they see it as doing something to make them happy and because they make Tufts special in a way that other universities are not. Examples of events that could be implemented include a winter carnival, in which a snow day is called and students descend on the hill for winter activities, talent shows and dramatic spoofs organized by the colleges, an annual birthday party for Tufts that celebrates Tufts history, and semi-formal dances held in the Gantcher Center to celebrate holidays.
Ø Create programs that address the practical concerns of each class. One example would be a “block party” for sophomores at the end of the year. Such an event would be held in the Gantcher Center, and students could go to specific stations to meet people living on the same street as them the next year. They could also receive information about living off campus, such as how to choose utility companies or what to do when something breaks.
Making Students Aware Of What Tufts Has To Offer
The Task Force report notes that students often do not attribute to Tufts the successes they have had at the University. A major reason for this is that Tufts has a marketing problem; students are not aware of the resources Tufts has to offer or the accomplishments of others in the community. When they stumble upon a program, they attribute their participation to their efforts in finding it, not Tufts’ work to offer it. There are many simple ways in which Tufts can improve communication with students about how to discover and take advantage of opportunities at the University.
Ø Implement disciplinary-based peer leader programs: departments may want to examine how to use their upperclassmen to help younger students navigate the major. One way to accomplish this is by selecting upperclassmen to serve as peer leaders in the department. Their names and contact information would be posted in the department office and on the Internet, and students could be charged with organizing outreach efforts to help others select courses, choose advisors, and learn about opportunities in the department.
Ø Send regular newsletters to students studying abroad, whether they are on a Tufts program or not.
Ø Make students aware of the accomplishments of their peers and professors. Major awards, such as Fulbright Scholarships or teaching awards, should be announced in campus-wide e-mails. Events honoring students, such as academic awards ceremonies, should be opened to the public and marketed to students.
Ø Use the advising deans to distribute information to students about programs on campus and during the summer that they might be interested in.
Overall, we look forward to seeing the Tufts community grow and develop with the implementation of proposals from the Task Force report. But as various administrators, faculty, and others work to put ideas into place, we would like to emphasize the continuing need for a student voice in their dialogue. The Task Force’s initiatives will not resonate with the Tufts community if students are not brought in to help shape them. Similarly, students share a responsibility in working toward implementation of the Task Force recommendations, and we hope that students will take an active role in lobbying for changes to take place.
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