Engaging Constructively across Differences

September 13, 2017

Dear Members of the Tufts Community,

Last week the Tufts Disorientation Guide was posted on Tufts Class Facebook pages. As Dean McMahon explains in a statement on the Student Affairs website, this Guide is not an official document, is not associated with an identified student group, and contains some deeply disturbing characterizations with respect to groups and individuals on campus. We have responded to complaints about the Guide in previous years, and have removed this year’s edition. We do not object to the Guide because it differs from our views on some campus debates or events, or because it is critical of some aspect of Tufts. We recognize that it identifies resources and raises issues that have not always been addressed sufficiently by the university, and in response, this year marks the inauguration of a redesign of Orientation and the undergraduate First-Year Experience that was driven principally by a broader range of student concerns.

What is troubling is that the Guide is, in places, misleading about some student organizations and deviates from our expectations about how we engage civilly and respectfully with each other on this campus. One clear example is the section on Tufts Hillel, which contains divisive and offensive assertions. We do not believe it is in accordance with the values of the university to impugn the integrity and good will of the many Jewish students on campus who are engaged in Hillel. Hillel provides an essential spiritual and social community for Tufts students and alumni, in addition to providing vibrant programming and speakers. Moreover, students who participate hold and express a wide variety of opinions with respect to issues regarding the state of Israel. Unfounded accusations of bad faith and prejudice are never acceptable and only make it more difficult to advance dialogue on challenging social and political issues.

This fall, we have launched Bridging Differences, an initiative aimed at helping all of us create and sustain a Tufts community whose members have the skills and commitment to engage constructively across lines of difference. Many members of our community are effective at engaging across lines of difference, but we believe that all of us can do better. We look forward to receiving feedback on this initiative and to engaging with the community throughout the year and in many venues, such as our office hours, town halls, and other community events. Meanwhile, we encourage all members of the Tufts community to take classes, attend events, and talk with people who will stimulate us to contemplate new ways of looking at the world.

Best wishes,

Tony Monaco and David Harris