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III.       Findings and Recommendations

 

B.        Strengthening the Tufts Community

As nations and cultures are becoming increasingly bound together in a global economy, continued hostilities throughout the world, as the events of September 11th, 2001 demonstrate, point to a crisis of understanding and cooperation.  It is essential for its students to develop the social and intellectual tools in their undergraduate years that will prepare them to function in our increasingly complex world, and we view the Tufts community as playing an integral role in students' overall education.  While Tufts' long-celebrated international focus provides students the opportunity to cultivate the cultural consciousness and global perspective they will require as active citizens of the world, it is the Tufts community which offer students a model of that larger world.  The University's longstanding commitment to building a community that reflects the wealth of cultural and intellectual diversity in the world provides students infinite opportunities to learn from one another and to engage with those who are different from as well as similar to themselves.  Put differently, our diversity provides students with the opportunity to engage in dialogue with one another on sometimes difficult and sensitive topics.  Thus the Tufts community helps students learn how to negotiate the differences and difficulties they will inevitably find in the world beyond. 

 

Though the Tufts community is a powerful instrument for achieving our educational goals the Task Force believes that we must strengthen our community to realize these aspirations more fully.  First, we need to create more frequent opportunities for the various members of our community to come together as a natural part of life at Tufts.  We wish to enhance not only the all-important connection between faculty and students but also the connections between and among faculty, students, and staff.  Second, we feel it is important to create programs, initiatives, and an infrastructure that foster a sense of belonging to the community as a whole.  In the recommendations that follow, we utilize all of the tools at our disposal— residential life and planning, social activities and programming, and even admissions policies— to create a community that is integral to the Tufts education that we envision and to strengthen our sense of belonging to this community as a whole.

 

Recommendations

 

Create a Tufts College System that brings faculty, students, and staff together in meaningful and sustained ways.

 

We recommend that Tufts create a college system that would serve as a powerful vehicle for strengthening community and creating coherence across all four undergraduate years through an integration of academic, social, and cultural programming.  In our December Report, we released a version of this proposal which enabled us to garner the critical feedback to sharpen and improve our vision.  A college system, as envisioned below and elaborated upon more fully in the appendix, could vastly improve the overall experience for students.  Colleges would provide students with many more opportunities to connect in meaningful ways with faculty outside the classroom as well as provide them with better access to campus services and systems.  The colleges would offer students an intimate and intellectually vibrant home within the larger university, and each college center could inject life into our intellectual climate by hosting intellectual events and programs.  In short, we see the college system as a mechanism for achieving all of the core goals of the Task Force in a bold and coherent manner. 

 

Because the Task Force does not have the expertise nor the time to work out the fine details of an initiative as comprehensive as a college system, we propose that the idea be given serious consideration by the various constituencies of the Tufts community and developed further by the Committee on Residential Life and Learning, Physical Plant, and the Committee on Student Life, as well as by appropriate external consultants.  In any case, the college system represents a profound shift in the culture of Tufts and, as such, will likely require significant time, exploration, analysis, and community dialogue before any changes are initiated.

 

Implement need-blind admissions for the undergraduate program.

 

We propose that Tufts make a long-term commitment to providing need-blind admissions while continuing our current commitment to meet the full-need of all admitted students.  Tufts currently has a "need-aware" admission policy, meaning that admissions decisions cannot be made without consideration of the applicant's financial need and that Tufts cannot offer admission to many well-qualified students solely because of their inability to afford a Tufts education.  As a result, Tufts must currently turn away students who, by providing their unique perspective or background, would contribute to the educational experience of their peers and enrich the diversity of the Tufts community. 

 

Need-blind admissions is a goal that is likely to be achieved only towards the end of a major capital campaign.  As funds are raised and earmarked for financial aid, we can gradually move away from a need-aware to a need-blind policy.  We strongly oppose any policy to move toward need-blind admission at the cost of our current commitment to meeting full-need.  Some institutions advertise a need-blind admission policy while not committing to meeting full need for all four years, but we believe such a policy can only lead to discouragement and resentment on the part of students who depend on consistent and predictable funding.  Moving over time to a system of need-blind admissions combined with our commitment to meeting full-need would allow us to focus our attention on constructing a community of exceptionally bright students from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.  Such a community would enable Tufts to provide our students with the richest possible experience.  As reflected in the recommendations below, however, we wish to emphasize that it is not enough to simply bring together a diverse student body— we must make a commitment to retain our students once they have matriculated. 

 

Provide enhanced support for faculty and curricular development in the areas of diversity and pedagogy.

 

Addressing issues of diversity in intellectual as well as social arenas in ways that underscore the connections between the two will require the active engagement of the faculty as well as resources for faculty development.  As has been stated before, attracting a diverse population of both students and faculty is essential, as it allows Tufts to create an environment in which students' encounters with difference educate and prepare them for the world in which they will live.  However, Tufts needs to do more to institutionalize its welcome to students of diverse backgrounds.  Our curriculum and co-curriculum need to provide students with both mirrors of their own experience and windows onto experiences and visions that are new to them. [i]  Such efforts will benefit all students by providing opportunities to explore differences of culture and inequality, both on the campus and off.  

 

Utilize residence halls as an instrument for undergraduate education.

 

            Residential life is both an important contributor to the life of the community and an integral part of an undergraduate education.  The Task Force recognizes the singular role residence halls play in the social and intellectual growth of students, and we recommend Tufts aim to make residential life a more intentional part of our overall educational program.  Whether or not Tufts adopts a college system, there are a number of steps that Tufts could take that would enhance the role of residence halls in the educational life of students.  One of the Task Force's earlier suggestions— to increase the opportunities for first-year students to live in all first-year residence halls— has already been implemented with the designation of Houston Hall as the second first-year residence hall for next year.  Students have spoken with high regard of the bonding opportunities and programming that take place in Tilton Hall, currently the only first-year residence hall, and the positive impact it has had on their college experience.  We are mindful that first-year halls are not for everyone and that many students obtain great benefit from living in close proximity with older students, but with two first-year residence halls we will now be able to closely meet demand.  Additionally, the Task Force recommends that as renovations of residence halls occur over time, considerable attention be paid to creating more social and multi-use spaces equipped with appropriate furniture and features that will encourage greater utilization of the space.  Such spaces could host social or cultural gatherings, small seminars, and other educational activities and in so doing make a powerful statement that a Tufts education occurs throughout the university and not simply in our classrooms and labs.

 

Create a planning group to design the optimal configuration of residential housing options for our undergraduate students.

 

           The Task Force feels it would be valuable for the Tufts community to discuss the merits of housing all Tufts students studying on the Medford campus in Tufts-owned facilities.  The excess demand for on-campus housing and the difficulty in finding adequate off-campus housing is a stress on students that detracts from their academic experience.  Currently, only first and second-year students are required to live on campus, and roughly half of upperclassmen can live in Tufts housing. This coming year is instructive: after rising seniors went through room draw, there were 141 beds for juniors.  The new residence hall, though it will add 150 beds, will bring the total available beds up to only an estimated 3,450.

         The Task Force does not presume to know how to fix the housing crunch, but we wish to underscore the importance of the issue.  We do not mean to suggest that we should simply build more residence halls on campus.  Many students express great enthusiasm for the experience of living off-campus because of the privacy and sense of home that the apartments provide and Tufts could create a mix of housing opportunities, including more on-campus residence halls as well as off-campus houses and apartments owned by the University and rented to students.  While such a policy would require discussion and consultation with local community groups and city governments, it is possible that the local community would welcome a thoughtfully constructed program.  Having the University as the landlord provides a measure of oversight that would help our students living in the local community be good neighbors.  Meanwhile, residential property stays on the local tax rolls and student safety is ensured because housing quality is maintained through University maintenance and upkeep.

 

Complete the Campus Center to fully realize its potential as a "town commons," a vibrant locus of social activity on campus. 

 

We encourage the completion of the Campus Center envisioned in the original design plans so that it may serve as a “town commons” on campus.  A fully realized Campus Center would help Tufts achieve the goal set out in the Master Plan for the Medford-Somerville Campus of making the Campus Center the social anchor for the campus.  Serious consideration should be given to a Campus Center addition plan to accomplish the following:

 

·        Move the faculty dining room back to the center of the campus.  Many faculty have noted the lack of a central gathering place for faculty central to offices and the library.  The original Campus Center Phase III plans envisioned a 150-seat facility with adjacent reception room and cocktail lounge.

·        Create a multifunction space with a built-in flexible furniture configuration.  We do not have appropriate meeting space for large groups in the center of campus.  The Campus Center Phase III plans projected a facility with capacity for 600 standing, 400 seated theater, 250 seated dinner. This type of space is already desperately needed for campus programs and groups, but would also be vital to the proposed college system.

·        Consider expansion of the Campus Center Dining commons.  Campus Center Phase III contemplated an expansion from 200 to 250 seats along with expansion of kitchen and storage space.

·        Incorporate a central mailbox facility for students.  Students identified having such a facility, particularly one in which students could receive packages as well as regular mail, as a high priority.

 

Develop programs that foster a greater sense of the Tufts community as a whole.

 

The programs of the University set the tone for the Tufts culture, and the Task Force proposes a series of programming initiatives be adopted which foster a greater sense of belonging to the community as a whole, promote a climate of intellectual engagement, and draw upon the wealth of cultural diversity in the Tufts community.  Simply bringing students and faculty into the same space, whether in an expanded campus center or a residence hall, is not enough; to create community and help individuals function in a diverse environment requires active programming and widespread participation.     

 

Possible events include:

 

·        Campus-wide competitions such as a debate or project competitions that engage large numbers of students in a sustained intellectual activity outside of the classroom.

·        Community-wide open forums, perhaps using the Ex College's popular "Opening Up the Classroom" as a model, which convene faculty, students, and staff to discuss difficult topics relevant to current events or issues on campus.

·        Events that strengthen cross-class, student-faculty, and intra-faculty connections.  The faculty high table dinners recently initiated at the president's request are an excellent example of one such event.

·        Events that foster Tufts pride: students love Spring Fling because it is a social activity in which everyone participates in some way.  The College System could be used to create more such events that will hopefully become Tufts traditions.

 

            Additionally, the Task Force strongly recommends the immediate implementation of the on-line AS&E calendar now in progress.  The calendar should facilitate and streamline the process of planning and scheduling of campus events.  A common complaint we heard from students, faculty, and staff pertained to the lack of a centralized repository of information on up-coming lectures, seminars, social events, and other programming.  Without such a resource, members of the community often unwittingly miss lectures, cultural events, social gatherings, or community forums which they otherwise would have wanted to attend.  Moreover, scheduling conflicts often arise when one group unknowingly organizes an event at the same time as another important event resulting in poor attendance for one or both events.  Perhaps most significantly, however, the lack of a university calendar contributes to a perception that the intellectual and social life on campus is less vibrant than it actually is.  The Task Force sees the calendar as the emblem of the kind of community we aspire to be: better coordinated, our parts more coherently and intentionally connected to the whole, and thus more richly laden with opportunity for learning and growth for all. 


 

[i] This metaphor is due to Emily Style, "Curriculum as Window and Mirror," in Listening for All Voices, Summit, NJ: Oak Knoll School Monograph, 1988.

 

 

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