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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, December 9, 2023

Op-Ed: A Farewell to Tufts


Dear students, faculty and staff,

Thank you so much. I have been deeply touched by all the well wishes I have received over the past few weeks. Now it is my turn to say thanks.

It has been an honor to serve you. My conversations with you -- at community gatherings, late night office hours or informal lunches at Semolina -- kept me inspired, kept me accountable and kept me going. You made me a better director.

I first came to Tufts in 2015. Student activists and founders of United Immigrant Justice invited me to speak on campus regarding my commitment to educational equity and first-generation, low-income and undocumented students at institutions of higher education. That year, activist students won a historic victory. President Anthony Monaco announced Tufts' commitment to openly recruit undocumented students and meet 100 percent of their need. I proudly witnessed the audacity of students who came together to demand change.

As the director at Tufts Latino Center, I, too, believed in change. I believed that all students deserve a fair chance at achieving their full potential. I believed that students need allies, particularly in administration, who will listen, develop their leadership and advocate for change. I believed in Tufts' long-held values of inclusion and access, and the conviction that separate is unequal.

Eight years before Brown v. Board of Education, a Mexican and Puerto Rican family paved the way for inclusion and the American civil rights movement. When nine-year-old Sylvia Mendez was rejected from a "whites only" school, her family demanded change. They sued the school district and won. In Mendez v. Westminster, Judge Paul McCormick found that separate is never equal. Then Governor Earl Warren signed a bill making California the first state to officially end school segregation. Change is possible. But it takes ganas. It takes a family.

Together we made Tufts Latino Center a family of families. We expanded our mission and redesigned our programs to be more inclusive and diverse. Our Latino Peer Leader leadership program, our La Casa Latina residential program and our internship professional development program now better serve Latinx, Caribbean, Latin American and multiracial students.

Together we made our Tufts Latino Center a vibrant celebration of our cultural heritage (not to mention safety and sanitary code compliant). But, above all, we made it a warm and cozy sanctuary. A nook to nap and practice self-care, a hub for Game Night! and community building, and a home away from home for student parents, re-entry students and students of color at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Together, we built new partnerships with the University Chaplaincy, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the Office of Institutional Research, Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, Counseling and Mental Health Services, the Office of Residential Life and Learning and the Office of Sustainability to proactively improve campus climate with regards to social justice, race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability status.

Together we built solid relationships with faculty in the School of Arts & Sciences, School of Engineering and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts to create campus-wide, student-centered educational programs for inclusion and cultural programming including the very first student-run Latinx Film Festival with mini-lectures from professors.

If I had told you we would take over Ballou Hall, Tufts' first academic building and the heart of institution, and reveal a powerful portrait of a new wave of Latinidad and social justice at Tufts -- as women in the U.S. House of Representatives have shown, powerful portraits are not just optics -- you might have said our expectations were too high.

But we did that. You did that. Together we continuously exceeded expectations. You too believed change is possible and because of you, we united our familia, elevated Latinidad at Tufts and moved forward towards a more inclusive, diverse and social justice-focused Tufts University.

As you begin a new semester, a new chapter, understand that our work is not done. Now, more than ever, student leadership and activism are necessary. Looking forward, do continue to pursue change through the recruitment and retention of Latinx staff and faculty, structural and financial resources for Tufts Latino Center and, most importantly, heart-to-heart dialogue and openness to our Latinidad at Tufts and beyond.

Thank you, again, for the privilege and opportunity to work with many students, faculty, staff, families, alumni and trustees. I enjoyed it immensely. I will carry the lessons I learned here with me to my next adventure. It is now the time to say "See you later." I definitely hope you keep in touch!

Julián Cancino Director Emeritus Tufts University Department of Student Affairs Tufts Latino Center