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Taking a look back at the past four years at Tufts

Published: Thursday, April 1, 1999

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 17:08

We arrived amidst a storm of controversy on a bright August morning in 1995 for orientation (remember The Primary Source’s postering of campus in preparation for the arrival of Gina Grant, who had pleaded no contest to the 1991 murder of her mother in South Carolina?) Since that auspicious start, we’ve experienced enough drama, controversy and scandal to last a lifetime. We leave four years later — a bit older, poorer (less $120,000 and then some for tuition, room and board, books, late nights at the Burren...), and hopefully wiser.

We leave Tufts a prettier place than we found it. During our tenure, Tufts jumped up in the national ranking of top US universities by US News and World Report. Tufts broke the top 25 our freshman year, and even reached a high point of 22nd place our sophomore year.

Wessell Library was transformed into the newly renovated Tisch Library. A $10 million gift from Preston Robert Tisch, co-chairman and CEO of the Loews Corporation and CEO of the NFL’s New York Giants, resulted in the creation of 74,000 additional square feet of library space in a building which now seats 1,250 patrons.

Our first year was also the inaugural year of the newly renovated Dewick/MacPhie dining hall. Although the installation of a brand-new, energy-efficient gas broiler caused ventilation problems, Dewick was still popular enough to put Hodgdon on the “endangered” list. The dining hall was saved, however, after students launched a Save Hodgdon campaign and the dining hall offered special events like ’50s themed meals to increase attendance. In another version of the dining hall wars, Hodgdon rivaled Dewick after Hodgdon was reincarnated as a takeout mecca and became a hip dining hall which offered stir-fry and omelets.

Brown and Brew, Tufts’ one and only coffeehouse, also opened in Curtis Hall, despite student protests over the use of the space and the effect the new hangout would have on Oxfam Cafe. After much delay, the Merchants on Points System, which allows Tufts students to use points to purchase take-out from certain off-campus establishments, also got underway sophomore year.

Also, despite many protests from students, the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate decided to allot $100,000 of its budgetary surplus to the construction of a patio behind the campus center, prompting a war between then-Treasurer Josh Goldenberg and The Primary Source.

And then there were also those improvements that Tufts should have made. Remember when storms flooded the basements of Stratton Hall and other campus buildings freshman year? Or when winds ripped off a 400-foot section of South Hall’s roof early one morning sophomore year?

Hesitant to leave everything to the administration, students did their fair share of trying to improve campus life.

Freshman year, members of Tufts’ African American and Asian American communities protested the TCU Senate decision to remove culture representatives from the Senate body. Many of the protesters felt that one senator chairing the Culture and Ethnicity Committee could not represent the viewpoints of all cultures on campus. After nearly three hours of debate on the issue, senators held a brief recess during which four African American male protestors took over senators’ chairs.

Members of the Asian Community at Tufts and the Chinese Culture Club also challenged budget cuts made by the Allocations Board (ALBO), claiming that ALBO cut the money for take-out food because it questioned the authenticity of take-out food as part of the culture.

The Tufts Burma Action Group was formed to attempt to force the Tufts administration to sever its contract with PepsiCo because it supplied a bottling plant in Burma, a country with human rights violations.

Students were also moved to action over the 110 UNICCO workers who lost their jobs when the administration decided not to renew its contract, and to transfer custodial services to ISS. The displaced workers regularly marched around Ballou Hall junior year holding signs and yelling chants while sympathetic students organized forums and collected donations for the workers.

Members of the Tufts football team also spread Tufts’ good name when they helped two accident victims after their car swerved across the highway and crashed near the team’s van.

This past year, diversity was the key mobilizing force among students. Seven students who were working independently organized a forum entitled “Many Voices, No Community,” which drew hundreds to participate in a conversation on race, class, gender, and sexuality. Although the forum had been in the works since the beginning of the semester, the event was finalized after seniors Julie Lee and Cynthia Wong were the targets of racist remarks at a party. Submerge, a new campus political magazine, was also distributed at the meeting.

The Coalition for Social Justice and Non-Violence, a new campus group, sponsored a second forum weeks later, in an effort to discuss viable solutions to the many questions raised during the previous forum.

Rumblings about diversity came to a head at the end of the semester when a group of students marched to Ballou Hall bearing tombstones printed with the names of those African American faculty and administrators who had left Tufts, confronting administrators after Todd McFadden, then director of the African American Center, resigned. In response, Vice President for Arts, Sciences, and Technology Mel Bernstein held five discussion sessions addressing students’ concerns about the diversity of the Tufts campus this semester. Debate focused on minority admissions, methods for increasing minority enrollment at Tufts, alumni gift giving, the unhappiness of minority students at Tufts, faculty hiring and retention, and the context of diversity.

Despite these improvements in Tufts life, we’ve also had our down moments.

Anybody remember the Student Lifeline Taxi? This taxi service was introduced in early September our freshman year with the promise of free cab rides for intoxicated students or those stranded at an off-campus location. However, students severely abused the new service within the first two weeks, running up a tab that was more than St. John’s and Columbia Universities had run up in two years. The service was promptly canceled.

Tufts Connect — intended to provide uniform telephone service, cable connection, and online services — was another rookie service that found barren ground at Tufts. We arrived our first semester to discover phones with no dial tones, voice mail that didn’t work, and an inability to call outside the University. Towards mid-semester, students who had not yet received a phone bill began to find their long distance service cut off because they had unknowingly exceeded their PAC limits. After this fiasco, some students were billed for phone calls that were nothing more than a busy signal.

Junior year, Tufts Connect once again came under criticism for what students called unfair billing practices. Students were upset when they were notified in August by CampusLink, the parent company of Tufts Connect, that they would be charged a one-time fee of $225 to cover many different phone services as well as an Ethernet connection and cable television, whether or not they had a computer or a television. Students were upset about not being given an option to pay in monthly installments and being forced to pay for services that they were unable to use.

Anger at Tufts Connect continued into the spring as the Senate voted to approve a new CampusLink rate structure which called for cable television and voice services to be offered separately. As this new “unbundled” plan caused much controversy and confusion among students, the hallway leading up to the CampusLink office was covered with student complaints and anti-CampusLink statements written on napkins and taped to the walls.

Another losing idea, the Tufts Computer Store, closed down sophomore year after sustaining a loss of $267,000 over the preceding two years.

Tufts, while generally a safe campus, has not been entirely free of violence during our four-year stay. Our freshman year, first floor residents of Carmichael Hall awoke to find racist, sexist, and homophobic graffiti on their walls, doors, pipes, and light fixtures. A Tufts freshman was also attacked by a group of six local teenagers in front of Goddard Chapel.

In October of our sophomore year, a group of youths assaulted two Tufts students in front of Fletcher. The same month, a student was stabbed in the abdomen with a knife during a disagreement that began after a pick-up basketball game in Jackson Gym. During the semester, four men were arrested on Professors Row and charged with larceny and assault with a deadly weapon after robbing two female students and threatening a member of Theta Delta Chi with a knife. A kitchen knife, as well as a pair of scissors, were the weapons of choice for student Gregory Glassner, who was arrested for stabbing three women at a party.

Junior year, a fight at one fraternity left four people injured, while an unidentified male drew a silver handgun in the midst of another fraternity party.

This past semester, a Tufts sophomore and a prospective freshman were attacked by a group of unknown perpetrators who jumped out of a van. Another student sustained minor injuries after she was hit by a drunk Medford man. A clash between Alpha Phi and Zeta Psi pledges at the cannon resulted in two of the sorority pledges being taken to the hospital.

However, the biggest shocker on campus was a hate crime against two homosexual students leaving an off-campus party which sparked campus-wide support for Tufts’ lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community. Over 200 students gathered at the much-maligned patio to show their intolerance for the hate crime.

On a lighter note, things haven’t been all work and no play for our class.

Although we were here for the storm that shut down Tufts University for the first time in 19 years on April Fool’s Day sophomore year, many of us were unfazed by Mother Nature and spent the day playing in the snow. The third-largest snowstorm in Boston history dumped more than two feet of snow on the Tufts campus, resulting in a surprise vacation for students, faculty, and staff.

Those who frequent fraternity parties were also in for a shock junior year when the Fraternity Insurance Purchasing Group (FIPG), a national collective bargaining organization for fraternities and sororities, announced a resolution passed by its members. The resolution recommended that fraternities and sororities within the organization restrict the number of guests to two per member at private parties.

When the Office of the Dean of Students announced that the University was obliged to consider the resolution as a mandate from FIPG, many fraternity and sorority members packed the TCU senate meeting to discuss the changes. Eventually, Associate Dean of Students Bruce Reitman released a statement that said the school would temporarily treat the FIPG guidelines as recommendations and not rules, allowing normal social activities to continue.

We’ve also gotten a chance to rub elbows with the famous while at Tufts. We’ve heard many renowned speakers including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former political prisoner Harry Wu, prize-winning author Elie Wiesel, Jesse Jackson, poet Maya Angelou, Harvard professor Cornel West, the multi-talented David Mamet, former Secretary of State James Baker, Patriarch Bartholomew, Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt, actor and social activist Edward James Olmos, Democratic National Committee chairman Steve Grossman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president Kweisi Mfume, and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, among many others.

We were here when Norm MacDonald graced our presence by showing up in a less-than-sober state of mind and making references to Christopher Reeve’s penis. We were here when Saturday Night Live’s Tracy Morgan told racially-oriented jokes and performed a simulation of fellatio on the microphone. And we were also here when Tufts was the host of Jodie’s Body, a one-woman show about apartheid and body image where the star was naked on stage during the whole performance.

We’ve also heard our share of Spring Fling performers. The Violent Femmes, George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars, A Tribe Called Quest, and the always-amusing Barenaked Ladies have rocked the President’s lawn. Junior year, Tufts decided to go for the big name in booking a disappointing LL Cool J for big bucks. Our last year, Spring Fling also took a lackluster turn. After the upbeat and energetic swing band Cherry Poppin’ Daddies took the stage, we were treated to the aging Sugar Hill Gang, who hasn’t had a hit in more than a decade, and Ben Folds Five, who lulled everybody to sleep and while artfully skipping their one hit song, “Brick.”

We’ve also heard other musicians off the lawn. Letters to Cleo, Fastball, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the Marsalis brothers and OutKast have been among those who have showed their faces at Tufts.

This year, we would also have heard Run DMC and Godstreet Wine at Fall Fest, Tufts’ annual fall concert, if it hadn’t been for a mistake in the planning by the TCU Senate. The concert was canceled the afternoon before because the police were not given enough notification to ensure security for the event.

Yep, we’ve really seen and heard enough to call these four intense and drama-filled years “the best years of our life.” It’s been an interesting four years, and about all that is left to say is, “What’s next?”

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