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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Editorial

Tufts was justifiably uncomfortable when reporters from The Boston Herald, FOX news, and other media outlets arrived on campus yesterday afternoon. At the time, protesting students were occupying the Bendetson hall. But Ballou's draconian handling of the situation made Tufts appear unnecessarily aggressive before the news media and only exacerbated the conflict. In today's news articles and television reports, Tufts will pay the price for its defensive posture.

As the protest wore on, Tufts closed Bendetson, barring students and the national media from entering the building. Tufts dismissed its employees, arguing that they could no longer function amidst the noise. Members of the Tufts Office of Public Relations pounced on reporters and photographers as they took to the patio, prohibiting them from conducting interviews or taking pictures inside the building. The non-violent demonstration took on an ominous air, as Police Detective Lieutenant Charles Lonero refused admittance to news reporters and members of TSAD, the event's sponsor. By closing Bendetson to interested students and reporters, outsiders were given a misleading impression of the situation. Rumors of a police "crack-down" circulated.

Perhaps most damaging to the University was its treatment of the off-campus press. Reporters, left out of the action, interviewed hovering students with well-established antipathies toward Tufts, while witnessing firsthand what may have seemed like bully tactics by the administration. In general, news stories exaggerate conflict and favor the "victim," so when the Herald goes to print, don't be surprised to find anti-Tufts sentiments dominating the story.

The reality was far less romantic. Quarantined sit-in participants passed most of the day lounging on Bendetson couches, or in the conference room strategizing. They played loud music through open windows, but were hardly a militant lot. Likewise, the atmosphere in front of the columns was subdued. There was little anger and even less threat of violence. But the University - seemingly represented by Admission's officers and Dean of Students Bruce Reitman, who stood behind the police in the building's antechamber - seemed surprised, frustrated, and overly defensive. The protest drew modest student support, but that fact was overshadowed by the large police presence. It was crowd control over what was hardly a crowd.

In the future, the University should permit interested student protestors, journalists, and the news media unfettered access to peaceful demonstrations. If general safety is assured, Tufts can avoid unnecessarily damaging press by tempering its police and faculty. Instead, yesterday, it chose to make a bad situation worse.