A Letter to the Tufts Presidential Search Committee

April 27, 2010

Dear Presidential Selection Committee,

I’m writing from the viewpoint of a white female student at Tufts, on behalf of myself and students who also wish to see change in our university. We come to you with the shared goal of bettering Tufts University and the experiences of all future students.

At Tufts University, we pride ourselves on our active citizenship and potential for social change, both in the classroom and outside of it. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to share with you the kinds of change we students at Tufts would like to see within our own institution. I know I speak for a large group of Tufts students when I say we would like to see a determined commitment to social justice in the next President of Tufts University. By a commitment to social justice I mean a resolute responsibility to addressing disparities between advantage and disadvantage in relation to race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status within institutionalized hierarchies of power.

Jamshed Bharucha, Provost and Senior Vice President, recently said that the selection committee wants someone with “a commitment to diversity.” It’s promising to hear of this commitment. However, championing “diversity” as the ultimate goal of egalitarianism can fail to recognize pervasive structural inequalities. The next President of Tufts should be dedicated to changing the systems of power rather than simply filling the system’s positions with a diverse array of representative figures.

We want a President who has experience working with marginalized students as they experience Tufts. Such marginalization includes but is not limited to issues of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, disability, and first-generation college students. When a bias incident or a hate crime occurs on campus, we want all students to feel secure within the Tufts environment, knowing that a standard of social justice has been established at the highest level of university leadership. We want Tufts University to be a place in which everyone feels comfortable, supported, wanted, and safe.

It is most important that the search committee seek out candidates who are dedicated to the principles of social justice. However, Tufts has yet to elect a president who is not a straight, white male. And while there are certainly people who are both socially normative and dedicated to working for social justice, we advocate emphasizing a search for candidates who also identify themselves with one or more marginalized groups.

We encourage you to make these issues of social justice central to your selection of the new university President. Among other matters to be addressed is the lack of ethnic studies programs at Tufts, which reflects a great disparity between us and other established universities. We hope that you give our input serious attention during the difficult deliberations that await you.

Sincerely,

Lucy McKeon

and the Undersigned

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