As I wrote to the community on December 18, Tufts is actively committed to combating all forms of hate, bigotry, and bias with a thoughtful and considered approach. As President Kumar said in his beginning-of-semester video, our mission and values also require that we bring more understanding, perspective, and dialogue into discourse about topics on which we disagree, starting on our own campuses.
In that spirit, we have launched Tufts Talks Openly, to bring together programming across the university focused on building awareness and knowledge to nurture an inclusive community. Please see below for an overview of offerings this semester, and view the full list of upcoming opportunities, and more on the Tufts Talks Openly webpage.
We invite you to join us at these programs and share your own unique experience and perspectives, and welcome you to send your feedback and ideas on future programming to us at email@example.com.
Caroline Attardo Genco
Provost and Senior Vice President
Dialogue & Action in an Age of Divides
This series features conversations among colleagues from across nine Massachusetts universities, including Tufts, in the spirit of tackling difficult issues and modeling constructive dialogue. For each online panel, Tufts is hosting a campus viewing and post-event discussion for community members to engage more deeply with the topics. Our next event:
- February 13: Coming Together Across Difference: Finding Common Ground Across Identities and Political Divides
Global Tufts Month 2024: Humanitarian Aid: Working Together in Times of Conflict
In times of conflict, complex emergencies, political instability, and environmental disasters, the Tufts community has consistently united to help with humanitarian aid programs that save lives, alleviate suffering, and preserve human dignity. Throughout March, events will spotlight initiatives aimed at alleviating the global impact of these challenges on well-being across various spheres.
We are offering anti-bias and non-discrimination trainings with sessions curated for faculty and staff audiences, as well as students:
- On February 14, Dr. Amer F. Ahmed (Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at University of Vermont) will lead two trainings focused on supporting our Arab, Muslim, Palestinian, and larger MENA (Middle East and North African) community.
- Later this month, facilitators from Project Shema will lead trainings on understanding antisemitism and creating an inclusive campus environment for our Jewish community. We will send a follow-up message with the date and time of this offering.
On February 21, faculty and staff are invited to join a workshop on facilitating responsive dialogues that foster inclusive learning and work environments. Faculty can also join a two-part workshop (February 28 and March 6) on planning for and responding to important and challenging classroom conversations.
- Register for Facilitating Inclusive & Responsive Dialogues (Faculty and Staff)
- Register for Planning for Important and Sometimes Challenging Classroom Conversations: A Workshop in Two Parts (Faculty)
Throughout February, staff and faculty can continue to get coaching from a licensed master social worker through Empathia about supporting distressed community members.
Staff are also invited to join Eileen Babbitt, Professor of the Practice of International Conflict Management at the Fletcher School, on February 16 for a guided discussion on the ongoing violence and destruction in the Middle East. Participants are encouraged to share their own experience, express concerns, pose questions, and seek a deeper understanding of other perspectives within our diverse community.
- Register for a Community Conversation with Eileen Babbitt (attendance is limited to 75 participants)
Last semester, more than 200 faculty, staff, and students from across all four campuses came together for Tufts Table, a community dinner that promotes dialogue and connection, to talk about sustaining community in times of conflict. On March 4, we will hold another Tufts Table on the Boston campus (Med Ed Building Room 114).
Before the year ends, I want to connect with you about how Tufts will continue to support our community in the months ahead and how each of us plays an important role in co-creating that support.
In this time of intensified antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab sentiments, as well as other forms of bias, Tufts is actively committed to combatting all these forms of racism and hostility with a thoughtful and considered approach.
As an institution of higher education, our mission and values also require our continued commitment to bring more understanding, perspective, and civil dialogue into discourse about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, starting on our own campuses.
Developing a Coordinated Response
Executive Vice President Mike Howard and I recently formed a team led by Cigdem Talgar, Vice Provost for Education; Kim Ryan, Vice President for Human Resources; and Monroe France, Vice Provost for Institutional Inclusive Excellence. This team works across schools and divisions to support the community’s safety, mental health, learning, and well-being and provides a framework that we can adapt and turn to when new challenges arise. Their work includes:
- Collaborating with leaders across all Tufts schools and divisions to align and strengthen our collective efforts.
- Sharing the excellent work emerging from our schools and divisions so others can access or replicate it.
- Keeping our community informed about university-wide initiatives and available resources.
- Providing recommendations for community conversations and learning.
- Inviting input from all members of our community and encouraging dialogue.
Building Awareness and Knowledge
Starting in late January, Tufts faculty will lead an ongoing series of educational panels for students, faculty, and staff called Tufts Talks Openly, focused on the human dimensions of this conflict. Co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Tufts schools and colleges, this educational series offers Tufts community members the opportunity to gain new perspectives from research and scholarship across disciplines. Stay tuned for more details to come early next month. You can also expect to see more school programming and campus conversations throughout the spring.
Nurturing An Inclusive Community
Tufts already has many wonderful community-building traditions, like Tufts Table, which recently brought together 200 students, faculty, staff, and leaders from all four campuses earlier this month. These programs are a good starting point, but to ensure that community spaces are truly inclusive, we will be adding more, including:
- Next semester, we will introduce inclusive dialogue programs for community members. Initially these programs will focus on dialogue within affinity groups, expanding over time to foster dialogue across identities and differences.
- We will offer training to address hate and discrimination and will introduce additional training on creating inclusive learning and workplace environments.
- We will also equip those who work in front line roles to support our community every day with coaching and best practices to create and promote inclusive dialogue.
- The Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) will expand its existing support for our educators and their teaching to include more programming, consultations, and tips for faculty, teaching assistants, and postdoctoral fellows to support an inclusive classroom environment.
All of Us
Our collective experience in the months ahead does not rest solely on the university’s institutional response. All of us are co-creators of this community. Our participation matters. How will you deepen your own commitment to knowledge and inclusion this spring? Some ideas:
- At times, the most important role we can play in this community may be stepping back to care for ourselves as an act of self-preservation and love. At other times, we step forward to care for someone else. That is valuable, important work.
- For some of us, our role may be to engage with the resources Tufts offers to become informed about something for the first time or to deepen our existing knowledge and skills. This consideration contributes to our collective wisdom and understanding.
- Some of us may feel ready to challenge our own deeply held perceptions and beliefs by listening to others whose lived experiences differ from our own. This is the courageous work of connection and community.
We will continue to be in touch in the New Year with more information. In the meantime, we welcome your ideas and participation in the months ahead. You can reach members of the team with your questions, feedback, or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you peace over the upcoming winter break.
Caroline Attardo Genco
Provost and Senior Vice President
Over the past few weeks, many members of the Tufts community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents—have raised concerns related to the climate on campus. We appreciate all the concerns raised. As leaders of the university, we want to provide a comprehensive update on how we have been working together to support our community, what our policies are to hold accountable those who break our community norms, and a preview of our plans moving forward.
Our first responsibility is the safety and well-being of our entire community. This is something we take very seriously because it is essential to maintaining a civil and productive environment for learning. Any instances of antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated. Any instances of physical violence or intimidation or cases where students are treated differently in class because of their religious or national identity will not be tolerated. If these actions are found to have taken place, then, per the student codes of conduct at the various schools, there will be serious consequences for those involved. These consequences may include, but are not limited to, loss of privileges, probation, suspension, or expulsion for individual students, or probation, suspension, or revocation of recognition for student organizations.
We have heard from several students who indicate that they do not feel safe because of language used in social media, protests, classroom discussions, or elsewhere on campus. We have been working to ensure the safety of the campus community and our security measures have been increased on campus. This has been achieved through increased cruiser and foot patrols by Tufts Public Safety, providing an armed security presence at Tufts Hillel and other locations on campus, and by the mutual sharing of intelligence with our public safety and law enforcement partners at the federal, state, and local levels and also with other college and university police departments. Thankfully, there have been no specific and credible threats against physical safety on our campus. However, we are also working hard to ensure that there is also a positive feeling of safety and community on campus during these anxious times through direct outreach and engagement, one-on-one conversations, small gatherings and programs organized by the University Chaplaincy, and other means.
Freedom of Expression and its Limitations
We have a robust set of rules about free speech, academic freedom, and protests on campus. But there is an important difference between free speech and hate speech. As Tufts’ Declaration on Freedom of Expression clearly states, “Freedom of expression and inquiry are not absolute. The law, for example, provides that freedom of expression does not include the right to slander the reputation of another, to engage in specified forms of harassment, to threaten or obstruct a speaker who advances unwelcome ideas, or to incite another person to violence.” The Declaration further states: “In addition, the university seeks to ensure the orderly function of the educational enterprise and to ensure that all members of the community have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the discovery and dissemination of knowledge.” Let us be clear that we will not tolerate threatening, violent, or destructive speech or conduct.
Protests are a time-honored tradition on university campuses, but we make a key distinction between those who are raising their voices to have their opinions heard and those who are raising voices to ensure that other opinions are not heard. Protests that involve the unauthorized entry into buildings, interference with classes or official events, or blocking means of entry or exit from rooms and buildings are a violation of our policies. Disruption or obstruction of community activity is also prohibited. Regarding discussions in class, we have communicated to the academic leadership that academic freedom also has guidelines as outlined in the American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Principles.
We want to be extremely clear that we will be enforcing these policies on free speech, academic freedom, and protests. Only by doing so will we continue to foster an environment where respectful dialogue is encouraged and embraced. Furthermore, this ensures a safe environment conducive to learning.
We have had instances of students, faculty, and staff going outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Members of university and school administration have reached out to students, staff, and faculty to remind them of what constitutes inappropriate behavior, the importance of using speech responsibly, and the responsible use of academic freedom and free speech rights. Our Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) compiled resources for faculty about “teaching in the days after” and these resources were shared with our academic deans and deans to send to their faculty.
The Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), along with student life staff and public safety officials, have also reached out proactively to students and student groups to remind them of university policy and how we fully intend on enforcing those policies through our established processes. Student Life at the Schools of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering has also communicated broadly with the student body regarding the appropriate ways to hold rallies and demonstrations and to remind them of Tufts policies regarding this matter.
We have encouraged community members who feel they have been a victim of, or witnessed an act of, hate speech or any other violation of our policies to reach out to the appropriate department and to file a complaint with OEO, which can conduct a formal investigation. Although our campus community has largely been respectful during this past month, OEO has received approximately 60 complaints that they are addressing by either providing resources or conducting an investigation. The incidents raised in those complaints were roughly split between accusations of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
As we know, antisemitism and Islamophobia are increasing on college campuses across the country. We welcome the support from the Biden administration, which is providing direct outreach and guidance to colleges and universities, including Tufts. The Department of Education has also announced that they will be making it easier for students who experience instances of antisemitism or Islamophobia to file a complaint under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Resources and Conversations
This is a moment in time when Tufts’ unique strengths in generating impact by building community can truly lead us forward. In the time since October 7, we have quickly mobilized our faculty experts and our staff leaders who work every day with our students to ensure that we created a safe and receptive environment for every student.
Recognizing that many in our community have been impacted, the university has ensured that community members have relevant and helpful information and access to a range of resources. We have developed this comprehensive website with information regarding resources and other available areas of support for faculty, staff, and students at each of our schools. These resources include those in the areas of: health, mental health, and wellness; academic and pedagogical support and resources; and spiritual and pastoral resources. We have also had multiple meetings and conversations with members of the Tufts University Chaplaincy to support our entire community, especially those who have been closely affected by the events in the Middle East. Recognizing that each of our schools has unique needs, we have been working closely with on-campus stakeholders in various ways to offer support, provide resources, and listen to concerns.
In the spirit of our mission and of our responsibility as educators, we have facilitated several community conversations across our campuses. Led by Eileen Babbitt, a professor of practice of international conflict management at The Fletcher School, these sessions are designed to develop critical thinking and listening skills in our students and to foster an inclusive environment of respectful dialogue and debate. We are working on developing and organizing additional sessions of various sizes across the university.
Additionally, we’re very proud of the majority of our dedicated faculty members who have maintained the rigorous learning environments for which Tufts is known while ensuring they provide the support and space that our students need during this time. Further, CELT has provided evidence-based guidelines through myriad communication and consultations to ensure that our faculty are equipped to teach during these turbulent times.
Leadership and Action
As we meet the immediate impact of the crisis in the Middle East on our campuses, we also want to be mindful that Tufts must play a long-term leadership role in addressing antisemitism and Islamophobia.
As you may know, in 2021, we conducted a comprehensive study of our campus community to better understand how antisemitism manifests at Tufts. Over 100 students, faculty, staff, and alumni were interviewed and over 6,000 students were surveyed. We are committed to applying the findings of that effort and, in combination with what we have learned in recent days, developing a concrete and actionable plan for addressing antisemitism at Tufts.
Among the recommendations and learnings upon which we will be acting are:
- Further integration of awareness and anti-bias content regarding antisemitism into our orientation and curriculum for students, faculty, and staff.
- The creation of additional venues and programs for the teaching of responsible and productive dialogue and listening.
- Continued participation with other universities in conferences, coalitions, and organizational activities to understand best practices that can be applied at Tufts.
- A review and, if necessary, modification of the policies regarding the recognition and funding of student organizations as well as the code of conduct and consequences for violations, particularly as related to hate speech.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. We will continue to identify additional opportunities and steps to address and prevent antisemitism on our campuses.
Many of these recommendations can also be used to address the rising cases of Islamophobia at Tufts as well and we will identify additional ways to confront it and hate in all its forms at the university. We will establish measurable goals, and we will hold ourselves accountable to continuing this work.
We are personally committed to the values of inclusivity, tolerance, and safety for all members of our community. It is critical that we meet this difficult moment and lead in all these areas. Thank you for your continued interest in helping us through these challenging times.
Caroline Attardo Genco
Provost and Senior Vice President
Michael W. Howard
Executive Vice President
Dean, University College
Helen W. Boucher
Dean, School of Medicine
Chief Academic Officer, Tufts Medicine
Dean, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Dayna L. Cunningham
Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life
Christina D. Economos
Dean, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy
Dean, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts
Kelly Sims Gallagher
Dean ad interim, The Fletcher School
James M. Glaser
Dean, School of Arts and Sciences
Dean, School of Dental Medicine
Dean, School of Engineering