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Petition Against Tufts New Winter Housing Charge

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November 18, 2010

Yolanda King
Director of Residential Life and Learning
Office of Residential Life and Learning
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155

Dear Ms King:

Re: New Winter Housing Charge

We are a group of international students who are staying on campus from December 23, 2010 to January 2, 2011. We are petitioning against the new charge of $100 for winter housing during this period of time.

After receiving the notice sent by ResLife on November 15, 2010, many of us feel that the decision does us an injustice based on the following reasons:

1. Internationals with financial difficulty and no alternative accommodations are most affected:
The burden  of the new charge falls mostly on those international students unable to return home for financial reasons, and without alternative accommodations in the States. It is unfair to charge those of us for whom the decision to live on campus is a necessary evil.

2. Source of the International Center’s subsidy:
On November 17, 2010, the International Center (I-Center) sent an email saying that they will subsidize the charge for affected students on financial aid. While we are glad that the neediest students will be exempt from the charge this year, we are concerned about the source of the subsidy. If the money comes from our financial aid package for next year, then the subsidy is self-defeating. If it comes from the I-Center’s funds, then the decision, by imposing a cost that seems to have no basis whatsoever, drains funding that could have benefited us otherwise.

3. Winter housing was free in previous years:
Winter housing had been free for at least the past two years, and we have been given no reason to believe that it cannot continue to be so.

4. No explanation was given by ResLife about the new charge:
Till now, ResLife has given us no explanations for their decision. ResLife made it without consulting the students it will most affect, assuming that we will accept their conclusions. As we do not know ResLife’s reasons, we cannot predict if the charge will hold in the future, if it will rise, or if the I-Center can continue to subsidize it for international students on financial aid.

4. Abrupt announcement disrupts travel plans:
Since winter housing was free in the past, we booked departure dates after December 23rd well in advance for our convenience and for cheaper tickets. Therefore, we feel very frustrated with the abrupt notice from ResLife, and the prospect of paying more in the end anyway -- either by changing travel dates or by sticking to the original plan, but bearing the housing charge.

Given the four major reasons above, we strongly feel that ResLife’s sudden, unexplained announcement regarding the new winter housing charge is unfair. Tufts is a diverse and tolerant school; we know that the college cares about the welfare of international students. We appreciate ResLife’s efforts in making Tufts a “home away from home” for the entire Tufts residential community. However, ResLife’s conduct, in this occasion and in the past, has been lamentable.We have three requests:

1. Revoke the charge:  
As the charge is unfair and was announced too abruptly, ResLife should revoke the charge.

2. Give the international community an explanation for their actions:
If we are to pay a charge for winter housing, we want to know where our money is going, why the charge is newly implemented, and how our interests have been taken into account.

3. More transparency and student involvement in future decisions:
ResLife should change the way they make decisions. ResLife should (a) provide formal and informal channels for student feedback, such as focus groups or feedback boards, (b) explain to the student body any decisions that they make, and (c) announce these decisions in a timely manner.

At this point, 129 Tufts students, both American and international, have signed this petition letter online here. We would appreciate it if you could take a moment to read comments from students who signed the petition here. In addition, we have a Facebook event regarding this issue that has attracted the support of more than a hundred Tufts students. This number is growing.

We would like to reach an agreement in this matter as soon as possible before the coming winter break.

Thank you!

Xiaochong Yao and Vivien J. Lim on behalf of
the Tufts international students staying on campus during 2010-2011 winter break
and the Tufts student community


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