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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, February 23, 2024

Cover to cover: Class of 2021's 4 years on campus, reviewed

jumbo-statue
The Jumbo statue is pictured on Oct. 18, 2020.

The Class of 2021's time at Tufts was marked by historic events and systemic changes. From student activism to an overhaul of Greek life to a pandemic that changed the way students learn and live on campus, the Daily has documented some of the most memorable moments in the past four years. As the Class of 2021 looks forward to graduation, the Daily is reviewing the history it leaves behind at Tufts. 

Mauri Trimmer (left) and Ben Kesslen (center) lead a protest march to Kappa Alpha Theta during sorority recruitment events on March 30, 2017. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily Archives

2017–18

The Class of 2021 saw Tufts make national news on account of a widely publicized resignation from The Fletcher School’s Board of Advisors, a conclusion to the previous year’s Greek life investigations and new directors at half of the Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion centers during its first year. 

Second-year Master of Arts in law and diplomacy candidate Camilo Caballero published op-eds in the Daily supporting a petition to remove Anthony Scaramucci (LA’86), former White House communications director, from The Fletcher School’s Board of Advisors in November 2017. Scaramucci sent a letter threatening a defamation lawsuit and demanding a public apology as well as the retraction of both op-eds. Scaramucci resigned the next morning.

The fall also saw an end to the Greek life investigations that started the previous year. One fraternity, Pi Delta, chose to dissolve rather than resolve allegations of misconduct. Two fraternities, Delta Upsilon and Zeta Psi, were suspended until September 2018. One fraternity, Theta Delta Chi, was found responsible for multiple violations of university policy and had its recognition revoked without room for appeal until 2027. Three fraternities — Pi Rho, Delta Tau Delta and Theta Chi — were placed on disciplinary probation. One sorority, Chi Omega, was placed on disciplinary probation until December 2018, and the other fraternities and sororities were found to be in good standing with the university.

In another attempt to address the ongoing housing shortage, the university made progress on the Community Housing project, known on campus as CoHo, which was firstsuggested by the residential strategies working group. The project, originally named Capen Village, was approved by the Medford Zoning Board of Appeals on Jan. 11, 2018 and opened to juniors and seniors in fall 2018.

Rising senior Jacqueline Chen won theelection for TCU president against rising senior Adam Rapfogel.

TCU Senate passed a number of resolutions. One called for the pass/fail deadline to beextended to 10 weeks into the semester for all students and was affirmed by afaculty vote on Feb. 7, 2018. The Senate alsounanimously passed a resolution calling for the separation of the Asian American Center and Asian American identity-based housing to improve accessibility to the center.

The Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion centers, known formerly as the Group of Six, saw major changes.Hope Freeman,Julián Cancino and K. Martinez were hired as center directors for the LGBT, Latino and Women’s Centers, respectively. In February 2018, the university announced the creation of a first-generation student center, the FIRST Resource Center, and in April, Martinez stepped down as Women’s Center director, citing hostility at Tufts on and off campus.

The year saw another victory for labor activists, with Tufts Dining workers voting overwhelmingly to unionize in April 2018.

The end of the year was tinged with mild controversy, however, with some students expressing disappointment over the choice of former DuPont CEO and Tufts alumna Ellen J. Kullman (E'78) to deliver the 2018 commencement address. Kullman faced criticisms over violations of environmental regulations that occurred during her tenure as CEO of DuPont.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the first Mass. Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke as part of the Tisch College Distinguished Speaker Series on April 22, 2019. Kyle Lui / The Tufts Daily Archives

2018–19

The year began with the initial rollout of CoHo, bringing in 45 new beds to campus for juniors and seniors. By the second semester, 39 more beds were added as the second phase rolled out, with the final phase set for the following fall.

The political climate on campus was tense leading up to the midterm elections. On Nov. 1, 2018, less than a week before the midterms, reporters at the Daily discovered posters reading, “It’s ok to be white” around campus, covering get-out-the-vote signs placed by JumboVote. The posters have been linked to white nationalists, including David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

The ballot questions for that year’s midterm elections were equally important to Tufts, particularly Question 3, which threatened to exclude gender identity from a list of state-held protections. The statewide Yes on 3 campaign, which upheld transgender rights, was campaigned for aggressively on Tufts’ campus, and Question 3 passed in favor of retaining protections based on gender identity.

During the midterm elections, Ayanna Pressley was elected to represent Massachusetts’ 7th District in Congress. Pressley is the first African American woman to represent Massachusetts on the national stage.

During the spring semester, Julián Cancino, the former director of the Latino Center, left Tufts, leaving three of the Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion centers without permanent directors. The FIRST Resource Center, aiming to serve first-generation students, opened for its first academic year.

Housing in areas other than CoHo also saw major changes throughout the year. In February, the Office of Residential Life and Learning announced that the SMFA Beacon Street dorms would house only first-years in the coming academic year due to historically large class sizes. Carmichael Hall would house only first-years in the coming year; Harleston Hall would house only sophomores.

In February, Rabbi Naftali Brawer found posters containing anti-Israel messages defacing the Granoff Family Hillel Center. The act was decried as antisemitic and as holding the whole of the Jewish diaspora responsible for the acts of the state of Israel.

Identity-based tensions on campus continued as a message supporting survivors of sexual assault on the cannon was painted over with “Trump 2020” and eggings on campus occurred. One of the victims cited “transmisogyny” as the reason for the egging.

The year also saw rising tensions between dining workers and Tufts, as UNITE HERE Local 26 continued to negotiate for a fair contract. In particular, students and workers held a picket outside of Carmichael Hall with an attendance of over 800 as students shouted slogans in support of the dining workers. Shortly afterward, the dining workers voted to authorize a strike, which was narrowly avoided when Tufts and the workers reached an agreement on April 29.

A student exits Tisch Library on March 13, 2020 following Tufts’ announcement that the library will be closed until further notice due to the spread of COVID-19. Alexander Thompson / The Tufts Daily

2019–20

The Class of 2021's third year at Tufts was shaken by a series of developments that again made Tufts the focus of national news, before being cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Senator for Massachusetts Ed Markey and Karl Rove, a former special advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush, were some of the many guests who visited Tufts as part of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life's Distinguished Speaker Series.

While impeachment proceedings of U.S. President Donald Trump prevented then-Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennett from visiting, fellow candidate Marianne Williamson met with Tufts Democrats in October.

Margot Cardamone became the FIRST Resource Center director after the Office of Student Success and Advising was dissolved in September and Marvin Casasola was hired as the next Latino Center director. 

Early in the fall, the Tufts campus was struck by three consecutive incidents of hate within one month. First, a Jewish student returned to their residence hall on Sept. 15 to discover aswastika affixed to their door; second, a different student found ahomophobic slur carved into their door on Oct. 2; third, a sign was defaced at the African American Trail Project exhibit in the Aidekman Arts Center. After the final incident, Monaco announced the formation of two bias response teams to focus on supporting the Tufts community.

The Tufts community also learned in September that Monaco attended a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the previous year, though the university did not disclose it at the time.

Tufts again made headlines in December by deciding toremove the Sackler name from its health sciences campus and programs and establishing a $3 million endowment focused on substance abuse and addiction prevention and treatment. The university made the decision following the completion of anindependent review of its relationship with the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma by former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts David Stern and Attorney Sandy Remz.

Tufts announced on Jan. 2 that for $2 million over 10 years, "Medford/Tufts" would be the name of the new Green Line Extension station under construction at the intersection of Boston Avenue and College Avenue. When completed, the station will be directly adjacent to the Joyce Cummings Center, a new academic building under construction since June 2019 and in planning since 2015.

Spring semester began withTisch College's historic move to Barnum Hall from Lincoln-Filene Hall, which also coincided with the beginning of its 20th anniversary celebrations. Barnum Hall had been closed for about a year sinceextensive renovations began in May 2018 and finished the following summer. 

Divestment lobbying made headway in February when the administration appointed members to the Responsible Investment Advisory Group for a review of Tufts' investments in the fossil fuel industry. The Board of Trustees established the advisory committee four months prior, after nearly seven years of student activism on the issue. 

The semester was upended, however, when Monaco announced on March 10 the closure of campus and shift to online classes due to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. Tufts confirmed its first positive case days later while students spontaneously organized financial and materialsupport through Tufts Mutual Aid.

Although classes resumed remotely on March 25,campus buildings were shuttered asmany students were forced to return home,some petitioned to remain andothers still were quarantined on campus. Students studying abroad as well asexchange students at Tufts all returned home, though some faced great difficulty as travel bans were implemented worldwide.

Dining workers’ hours were cut with most dining locations closed, but they secured an agreement to extend benefits through the end of the semester. Among other academic policy modifications, faculty approved a new and temporary Exceptional Pass/Fail grading system, which was opt-in and would satisfy all academic requirements. The administration reaffirmed its commitment to meeting full demonstrated need in financial aid, despite an expected $15 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year and an estimated $50 million shortfall in the next.

Having initially canceled ceremonies entirely, the administration responded to outrage from many members of the Class of 2020 bypromising to hold in-person Commencement when it would again be safe to do so. On May 17, Tufts instead held a virtual all-university degree conferral ceremony.

The Tufts cannon is pictured on Sept. 24, 2020. The cannon was painted with a message encouraging people to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

2020–21

The class of 2021’s final year began unconventionally, as Tufts' academics and activities adapted to a hybrid model in adherence with COVID-19 public health guidelines. While Tufts welcomed students back to campus, some opted to either attend classes remotely or take a leave of absence.

Tufts implemented a number of measures to ensure the safety of community members, including routine testing for students,pooled testing that extended to Somerville and Medford residents and the implementation of the Mods, which facilitated the ability to quarantine students who tested positive for COVID-19 and their close contacts.

Online programming allowed for a robust lineup of speakers through Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life's Distinguished Speaker Series. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Dr. Anthony Fauci, voting rights activist and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and author Ijeoma Oluo were only a few of the speakers to visit Tufts virtually this year. 

The Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion wasrenamed as part of a larger restructuring effort. This change additionally welcomed three new full-time staffing positions.

The year was also marked by student activism and political engagement. Members of the Tufts community marched in support of theBlack Lives Matter movement,formed new campus organizations focused on anti-racism andreevaluated the lack of representation in departmental curricula. This came after a summer of protests and a national reckoning with police brutality and white supremacy in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Student organizations alsophone-banked,assisted with voter registration andworked at the polls leading up to the presidential election in November. 

Shortly after Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election was announced, Tufts faced challenges within its own student government when the Tufts Community Union Judiciarysuspended the Senate Executive Board and Elections Commission (ECOM) in November. The Judiciary believed that the Senate Executive Board and ECOM were planning to appoint students to vacant Senate seats — a violation of the TCU Constitution. The Judiciary thenrevoked its suspension after less than 24 hours, having resolved what had been a miscommunication between the three branches. 

TCU also held aspecial election at the end of November, which included referenda by Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine and Tufts for a Racially Equitable Endowment. Although 42% of the student body voted — the highest turnout for a special election in Tufts’ history — the universityannounced that it had no plans to take action on either referendum. 

Many students left campus early this fall, with Tufts asking those who traveled for Thanksgiving to remain home and complete classes virtually. Students did not return to campus until late January for the spring semester, which began Feb. 1. Most study abroad programsremained suspended and spring break wascondensed into a three day weekend, in part due to traveling risks posed by COVID-19. 

Tufts and its surrounding communities were affected by multiple acts of hate early in 2021. Manyreacted to the insurrection at the Capitol that took place on Jan. 6, as well as the involvement of Jessica Turner, a member of the Somerville Affordable Housing Trust Fund. 

The university shared the results of an investigation in February regarding a September incident involving Tufts University Police Department's response to three women of color hanging a mask on the Jumbo statue as part of a university-sponsored effort to promote JumboVote and Healthy@Tufts. The investigation concluded that discrimination did not factor into the incident. 

This announcement came only days before two Zoom bombing incidents — one at a diversity, equity and inclusion event — occurred back to back. President Monaco subsequently announced the creation ofBias Education Response Teams in March, which are designed to address the impact of hateful and discriminatory acts as well as provide support to the community. 

The Board of Trusteesvotedto ban direct investments in 120 coal and tar sands companies, which was announced in a Feb. 10 email to the community. However, many environmental organizations on campus remain unsatisfied with the decision, citing a lack of change in current investments. 

President Monaco also shared therecommendations of five workstreams created in July 2020 as part of the university’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist institution in a Feb. 17 email. The workstreams — Institutional Audit and Targeted Action, Campus Safety and Policing, Public Art, Compositional Diversity, and Equity and Inclusion — were composed of faculty, staff and students. Recommendations are currently being considered for or are in the process of implementation. 

The Class of 2021 played a key role inreforming and restructuring Greek life on campus during its final year. Following discussions prompted by the online account “Abolish Greek Life at Tufts” over the summer, all members of Alpha Phi and the majority of members in Chi Omega disaffiliated from their national chapters, creating local sororities The Ivy and Thalia, respectively. New members were welcomed through virtual recruitment this spring. 

The universityannounced that it would close the Confucius Institute in March. The decision came after months of weekly protests from the local Tibetan, Uighur and Hong Kong communities. 

A record-low 11% of students wereoffered admissionto the Class of 2025, and the accepted students comprise the most ethnically and racially diverse undergraduate class in Tufts history and are part of the first class that applied under the university’s new test-optional policy. 

TCU President-elect and rising senior Amma Agyeimade history this year as the first Black woman elected to the TCU presidency. Agyei won over rising senior Tim Leong, who will serve as TCU vice president. 

For the second year in a row, the university has planned a virtual Senior Week and Commencement, despiteconcerns voiced by the senior class. Tufts will welcome civil rights lawyer and author Bryan Stevenson to deliver the 2021 Commencement address on May 23. 

Rebecca Barker, Robert Kaplan, Austin Clementi and Zachary Hertz contributed reporting to this article.

Editor's note: The 2017–18, 2018–19 and 2019–20 recaps in this article are reprinted from the2019–20 Commencement issue of the Daily.