Editorial | Building positive community relations
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 08:10
On a campus where students and faculty are constantly in pursuit of opportunities for learning and research, it is no wonder that the need for more space is also pressing. At Sunday night’s Tufts Community Union Senate meeting, University President Anthony Monaco mentioned a number of construction projects that the university is considering, one of which would be located at 574 Boston Ave. This address is the site of a four-story, 96,000-square foot Tufts-owned warehouse that was previously inhabited by Somerville artisans, and is now under consideration to receive some serious renovations. Althought the use of the space at 574 Boston Ave. will undoubtedly be beneficial to the university community, Tufts should do more to aid those artists who previously utilized this building.
Plans illustrate that 574 Boston Ave. will be made into a much-needed teaching, office and social space. The building will become a valuable addition to the university’s collection of academic buildings and is not far from the center of campus, unlike the relatively new biology laboratory spaces at 200 Boston Ave., west of the Medford/Somerville campus. It is convenient and safe for members of the university community to have classes as close to campus as possible, especially for those taking classes at night when a long walk alone is potentially dangerous.
Before being recently reclaimed by the university, the four-story building was a place of work for hundreds of local woodworkers, metalworkers and other craftsmen for over two decades. The tenants were warned in late 2012 that they would have to relinquish the site to the university — six months in advance of when they would be required to leave. Even with advance notice, there was still a degree of outrage at their uprooting. Though these artisans are by no means under Tufts purview, as a university that encourages positive relations with the surrounding communities and creativity, as well as artistry, within its student body, there should be some desire on the university’s part to assist these displaced tenants.
Because the building is Tufts-owned, the university has every right to do with it what it wants, especially if it plans to use the building for educational purposes. Even so, it is important to remember how integrated the Tufts campus is with Medford and Somerville. Because these localities are constantly interacting with members of the university community, it is in Tufts’ best interest to keep this vibrant local artisan community alive. Facilitating the search for a new space for these tenants, especially because the artisans occupied the building for so long, is the most ethical thing to do. With Tufts’ assortment of resources, it would not be difficult to assist these artisans in their search for a new home. It is important for the future of the university to keep ties to the surrounding communities strong and relationships cordial, and putting in a little extra effort to help a few displaced craftsmen find a new home can achieve this.