Campus Reform | Tufts removes portraits of past presidents because they're too White

Tufts removes portraits of past presidents because they're too White

Tufts University announced a sweeping $25 million antiracism initiative.

The university is replacing eleven portraits of the school’s former presidents with exhibitions about underrepresented communities.

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Part of Tufts University’s multimillion-dollar antiracism plan involves replacing eleven portraits of the school’s former presidents with exhibitions about underrepresented communities.

According to a letter from Tufts University President Tony Monaco, the school will spend $25 million to “advance equity, inclusion, healing, and justice” in its community and alumni networks. Various student and faculty contributors crafted five final reports that detail recommendations to address institutional racism at the university.

The Tufts as an Anti-Racist Institution initiative was announced by Monaco in the summer of 2020. The initiative pledged to “find and eradicate any structural racism at Tufts and to take the steps necessary to become what every member of our community would view as an antiracist institution.”

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Among the five reports is a thirty-page document about the role of public art exhibitions in promoting diversity. In particular, the document notes that the Coolidge Room — described as “Tufts’ oldest and most ceremonial space” — lacks representation from marginalized groups.

Until September 2020, eleven portraits of Tufts’ former presidents hung in the room. However, the report recommends “that the space reflect the work happening on campus and that new installations must center marginalized voices from the university’s past and present.” Accordingly, they suggest installing “a series of rotating exhibitions of images and objects from the University Archives that tell the story of underrepresented communities at Tufts.”

The report provides no specific plan for relocating the portraits but recommends creating an online database with all university portraiture.

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Another report recommends sweeping changes to the university’s police department, including the establishment of a Community Engagement Officer post, the hiring of mental health professionals, and the increased use of non-sworn personnel.

Campus Reform reached out to Tufts University for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft