BackgroundInterview Date:July 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2018
High School Experience: Public school in The Bronx, New York with about 100 students in the graduating class.
Major: Political Science
Extracurricular Activities: I worked at the newspaper, the Tufts Daily, I was in a fraternity, I was on the debate team, and I worked for the undergraduate International Affairs Journal, Hemispheres.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
All of them I’d say. I ended up getting pretty high up in the newspaper and it taught me a lot about how to write and how to structure arguments. It also taught me a lot about how to create organizational systems that are effective and can deal with problems due to lack of time or interpersonal conflicts between group members.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
Almost all the Political Science classes, except my seminars which had weekly response papers due, were lectures. There are mostly one or two tests and a final, maybe an essay instead of those. There are not many chances for evaluation in most of the courses.
Is there anything you especially like or dislike about your major’s department?
Yeah, I really like the professors. They’re really smart and interesting people. And I kind of dislike the fact that so much of it is test based. But that’s me, I don’t know how other people feel about that.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely competitive. People are very ambitious. But, I’ve never seen a situation where someone is not willing to help someone else. I had one class where the professor told us that he expected us to collaborate on a final. I also have studied together with friends when we are in the same class.
What has been your favorite class in your major?
American Primacy. Every week we would tackle a new challenge that America’s foreign policy faces. Before the class, we did a pretty comprehensive set of readings on it and then we would discuss the readings and write a response paper to the readings. Then in class we would talk about it, edit each other’s response papers, and then have a 20-minute debate between different sides on a particular position our professor had chosen that was relevant to the topic for the week.
What has been your least favorite class in your major?
That’s hard, I don’t know. I mean there were a lot of classes where I wasn’t that engaged, but I wouldn’t want to deem one as least favorite.
I just want to tell undergrads to be wary of lecture classes in general. I enjoyed seminars a lot more because in lecture classes it’s easy to not pay attention. You also don’t get as much face time with the professor when you’re one of thirty or forty students. You get to engage a lot more in seminars. I regret not taking more seminars because the requirements aren’t too strict to get into them.
Why did you choose Political Science?
I’ve always been really interested in politics and it seemed like the natural next step.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Bush Hall in a single. It was a mixed dorm with freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.
Sophomore: I was an RA in Houston Hall which is an all freshmen housing dorm.
Junior: Off-campus in a house with three other guys on one floor of a two-story house with 4 other guys living on the floor below us.
Senior: Suite in Latin Way with two other guys.
What was your favorite living situation?
Living off campus because just physically it was nice to have a lot more space and a lot more freedom. Latin Way was nice but it just wasn’t as big. I also had a dishwasher my junior year which was very helpful.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Yeah, I’ve always felt very safe. But then again as a tall, kind of muscular white guy, I don’t think I’m really a target. So, I don’t know if I can speak to that much saying I’ve never felt threatened.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Posto, it’s an Italian place in Davis Square that’s really good. My family always goes there for dinner when they’re in town.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Dave’s Fresh Pasta, it’s this kind of supermarket with a lot of really good, nice Italian food. If you need a break or you’re tired of the Tufts dining food you can just go there and relax and have a sandwich.
Pros and Cons of being in Medford, MA?
Pros: (1) We’re really close to the T [Boston MTA] and we’re close to Boston. I know a lot of people who have gotten really interesting research positions at places like Harvard and MIT because they’re so close.
(2) Davis Square is a nice mix between the suburbs and the city in that there are really good restaurants and shopping and just generally nice places to study and hang out.
Cons: (1) The town ordinances regarding noise kind of suck. It sucks when you’re throwing a party and it gets closed at 12:30.
(2) I think the locals are a little hostile to us. Tufts has had some good and bad impacts just because there are so many students flowing over from the university. Right now, there are about 2,000 more Tufts students enrolled than there are housing units at the university. So, a lot of people are living in the Medford and Somerville communities and they don’t like that very much, which is understandable. College students aren’t the best. They’re loud, they disappear for three months a year. Also, the Tufts students are driving up the property values. If your income stays stagnant but your property tax goes up and up I can understand why you’d be angry.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
House parties or sometimes there isn’t stuff going on so you get some friends together and hang out. Friday and Saturday, and sometimes Thursday. A lot of my friends and I go to this local pub right off campus in Davis Square called The Burren. I didn’t go as often but it’s a big thing. Greek life throws parties, but Greek life is in a very tumultuous situation, so I think last year they were banned from throwing parties. Now only a few can throw parties. I’d advise any prospective student to check out the Greek life website because things could change very quickly. [8 of 18 fraternities and sororities are deemed as being “in good standing” by the university.]
What are your favorite events at Tufts?
Spring Fling is a lot of fun. It’s the Sunday before reading period starts and they bring in musicians. The whole campus kind of shuts down and houses throw a lot of parties so you wake up, go to parties for like 4 or 5 hours, and then go relax and see the concert and then that’s your day. It’s always a lot of fun.
What’s the impact of Greek life on the nightlife at Tufts?
That’s a really interesting question because I think on the one hand it does serve an essential social space because when it’s your freshman year, you don’t know many upperclassmen so there’s nowhere to really go out. But, at the same time, it does monopolize the social experience because these are the only big houses that are accessible to everyone. [See Tufts Enigma article: “Tufts Trends 2017: Social Life at Tufts” and Tufts Observer article: “Where did all the parties go?”]
How happy were you with nightlife at Tufts? Is there anything you would change if you could?
The [Tufts University Police Department] cracks down on the parties kind of early. There was one time I was throwing a party at my place and at 12:30 the police came and we had to kick everyone out. It was just like, this is really early. Something similar happened at another party at like 12. It’s just hard because people want to go out longer than that.
What were your favorite times at Tufts?
I’d say my second semester of senior year. I just hung out with a lot of people. When people have jobs and the semester is winding down people are a lot more available and a lot more relaxed. It was just great spending time with a lot of people who I hadn’t seen in a long time.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Just through other people and mutual friends. Also, through extracurricular activities, like in the fraternity I met some people that I’m still in touch with now even after they graduated, and I met people through clubs. I have also stayed in touch with people who were on my dorm room floor freshman year.
Do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I’d say it’s a definitely a little fragmented. It’s hard because in terms of my experience, of the people I consider to be good friends half are not White. But, I don’t know if that’s true for the rest of campus because I’ve heard other people say things, like “the wealthier white people kind of divide themselves in fraternities”, or there are some people who just don’t want to have to do with certain parts of Tufts’ campus. So I would say it’s kind of fragmented.
What is the impact of Greek life on social life?
I think it serves the fragmentation a little bit. Just giving it the eye test, I think fraternities tend to be a little more White and also just wealthier because you need to have a certain amount of money to pay dues. For some fraternities, they can be around $1,000 a semester and that’s a lot of money to tack on to tuition. I think there are exceptions, but I think the sticker price pushes low-income people away.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Tufts?
I like it. I think it’s a good mix of dance parties, house parties and chilling. Going into college I knew I didn’t want to go out more than two nights a week. I think the social scene does a good job of providing a lot of outlets, but having a bit of variety. It’s not like you’re doing the same thing every weekend. It was only by the end of my senior year where I was like, “Oh wow, I see the same people all the time.” But I was always kind of meeting new people and going to new places.
How would you describe the student body?
A lot of very ambitious people. Overall, I’d say there’s a pretty bright line in terms of that there are people that are very committed to leftist politics. I think they are 15-20% of the population is really dedicated to leftist politics, and then there’s like 60% that’s kind of a little conservative and the rest is in between. People have an idea of Tufts as a very student activist-y place, but I think it’s more like a very vocal and organized group.
Do you think people are happy with Tufts by their senior year? Do you think people love Tufts?
Not really. I think a lot of people don’t really like the administration that much. I know a lot of people like the friends they’ve made and their professors. But some people are unhappy with the way the administration works, administrative decisions, and just unhappy with tuition and stuff like that.
Have you used the career office much?
Yeah, I went to them a few times to ask for help with my resume and cover letter. They were helpful.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Tufts before you entered as a freshman?
I think I kind of wish I understood how classes worked because I think my GPA would be a lot better. The last two years of college my GPA got a lot better. I don’t think I was working harder, I think I just figured out more how the evaluation system works. Like, how in tests professors really want you to mention the readings. Your arguments will only get you so far if you don’t show evidence from the readings. Also, use Ratemyprofessor.com because it doesn’t really lie. It does show you which professors are engaging and smart and inspirational.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I’d tell them to check out Ginn Library. It’s like this really nice, small library for the Fletcher [Graduate School of International Affairs] students, but a lot of Tufts [undergraduates] go there to study. It’s a really nice, relaxing academic space. Unlike the other big libraries, you don’t feel kind of hemmed in by all the people there. Also, check out Dave’s Fresh Pasta it’s so good. After one of my classes on Monday night my friend and I would always cook up some ravioli that we’d get there and it was delicious.
Reasons to attend Tufts:
1) There are a lot of really interesting people who will go on to do a lot of really cool things. Like I have a friend who is getting a Ph.D. in Physics, another friend is getting his Master’s in International Relations, another friend is working for an intelligence service. The people you meet are so driven and interesting, it’s really great.
2) There’s so much variety in terms of classes and professors. I was able to take graduate courses in urban planning and a very particular area of philosophy and I don’t know if you’d get that at a small liberal arts college. And you’d also be able to get into them at an earlier year because, unlike at a huge university, there’s not too much competition in terms of getting in classes.
3) The social life and the clubs are pretty cool. If you’re cool with stuff occasionally getting shut down early, the parties are pretty fun. As you get older, the parties are less fraternity party dancing and more going to a basement of 40 or 50 people and socializing. That was more my kind of thing.
Reasons to not attend Tufts:
1) What I liked about the social life could be what someone else doesn’t. If you want to go to huge parties, Tufts isn’t the place to go. Aside from maybe homecoming and Spring Fling, there aren’t too many giant things.
2) It’s expensive. My younger brother is going to another college that is significantly cheaper. [For the 2019-2020 class year, total costs for Tufts is $76,200.]
3) I’ve heard for mental health services it’s very hard to get treatment. There’s a backlog of people [so you have to wait]. So if you’re having a hard time and want to talk to somebody, it sucks that it takes a long time for that. [See Tufts Daily article “Editorial: Tufts should expand mental health services.”]