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Editorial: It’s High Time to End Legacy Admissions


The time has come to end legacy admissions at Tufts. In November, the Tufts Community Union Senate passed a resolution calling on undergraduate admissions to remove questions on applications regarding whether applicants have a familial connection to the university, whether to current students, alumni or faculty. Last month, the faculty senate passed a similar resolution to end legacy consideration in the admissions process at all levels of the university. Additionally, this past year, The Fletcher School as well as Tufts University  removed questions about legacy status from their applications. Graduate school applications for the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering also do not ask about legacy status. Given this support by students, faculty and administrators alike, Tufts should move to end legacy consideration in admissions at all levels of the university.

Legacy admissions began in the early 20th century as a nativist practice to preserve acceptances among white, wealthy and Protestant applicants and to continue to benefit similar demographics today — legacy students at elite universities are significantly more likely to be white and wealthy.

Legacy status has been estimated to double or quadruple a student’s chances of being admitted, though many schools, including Tufts, do not make the exact numbers available. A lawsuit against Harvard University, for example, has laid bare the inner workings of admissions at elite schools, and a recent study using data made available from the case not only found that recruited athletes, legacies, dean’s interest list students, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs) are disproportionately white and wealthy relative to the overall applicant pool but also estimated that about 75% of white ALDC admits would have been rejected had they not been part of this privileged cohort.

By not removing legacy consideration, Tufts upholds admissions practices that compound privilege and disproportionately benefit white students. This impact directly counters Tufts’ mission in becoming an anti-racist institution. Tufts considers the initiative “a pledge to find and eradicate any structural racism at Tufts,” but with legacy admissions debates notably left out of the compositional diversity workstream, Tufts won’t find answers to questions it isn’t asking. Ending legacy consideration is an easy reform for college admissions and one that would greatly advance the university’s mission as an anti-racist instution.

According to Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations, “No single factor determines an admissions decision. We do not reserve seats for applicants with family ties to Tufts. And, importantly, no student is admitted to Tufts because they have a family connection to the university.”

Tufts claims that its consideration of legacy status does not necessarily “perpetuate privilege” because its definition of legacy also includes an applicant’s siblings, but given that the university has stated that it prioritizes parental connection, it’s questionable how much this operationalized definition of legacy does to mitigate issues of generational wealth and privilege.

In 2010, Susan Ardizzoni, then director of undergraduate admissions, said that they look “very closely” at students with parental legacy connections, given that alumni often “continue the tradition of support of the university.” We are not saying that students with a familial connection to Tufts won’t feel a sense of familiarity with the university and thus have more of a desire to apply, but this commitment to Tufts that admissions officers often look for is impossible to disentangle from the compounding privileges of wealth and whiteness that legacy admits often hold.

University administrators across the nation often argue in defense of legacy admissions by citing fundraising concerns; however, evidence suggests that this concern may be unfounded. One study found no statistically significant association between total alumni donations and legacy admissions policies. At Johns Hopkins University, for example, which first began phasing out legacy preference in 2014, the number of Pell Grant-eligible first-years more than doubled over 10 years, diversity increased and the school didn’t bear any apparent major financial hardship.

Importantly, this summer, Tufts Admissions will conduct a study regarding legacy preference, as requested by Deans James Glaser and Kyongbum Lee. “The study will gather data … and provide a better understanding of the implications of legacy in admissions at Tufts and how to address the policy moving forward,” Collins wrote in an email to the Daily.

Many individual legacy students are certainly worthy of admission, but ending legacy preference is about the structures of power and privilege implicit in the admissions process. We have previously expressed support for the reform of admissions practice regarding need-blind admissions and test-optional policies, and abolishing legacy consideration should be only one step in a move towards more equitable admissions.

Tufts must prioritize transparency and communication in its review of legacy admissions this summer. Further, the university should account for the broad support by student and faculty governance and its commitment to becoming an anti-racist university and move to end the practice.

Scheri Fultineer Embraces Holistic Arts Education as New Dean of SMFA at Tufts


Humankind has been pondering the nature of art for eons. Scheri Fultineer, who in January 2023 will become dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (SMFA at Tufts), sees art as a force that brings “awe and wonder” to both artist and audience. “Art asks uncomfortable questions and sometimes shocks,” says Fultineer. “It catalyzes examination about the most critical aspects of being human and being alive, and artists are constantly involved in examining and remaking worlds.”

Fultineer has pursued that vision throughout a distinguished career as an artist, landscape architect, professor, and higher education leader. She most recently served as dean of the Division of Architecture and Design at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she also held the roles of interim associate provost of research and a department head. She taught for more than a decade at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“Scheri Fultineer impressed us as someone who will be able to not only sustain the incredible momentum at SMFA but also to lead the school to new achievements,” said James M. Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “She is a highly experienced educator whose artistic practice is intellectually provocative, with themes that will resonate on the Fenway and Medford/Somerville campuses and university-wide.”

Dina Deitsch, director and chief curator of Tufts University Art Galleries and chair of the search committee, said that in a talented pool, “Fultineer stood out for her impressive depth of administrative and leadership experience, her clear commitment to holistic arts education, and her rigor and creativity.”

SMFA’s tradition of innovation in arts education was a strong magnet for Fultineer, who will also be a professor of the practice at the school and is eager to advance multidisciplinary collaboration. “Together SMFA and the university offer an intellectually and creatively rich community with multiple resources, multiple ways of looking at the world, and multiple knowledge sets,” says Fultineer. “They can be extremely powerful when they work together.”

She lauds SMFA’s interdisciplinary BFA and MFA degrees and the fact that each student identifies their own academic trajectory and works with faculty advisors to identify what knowledge they need to reach their goals. For some, she says, that might be learning to weld. For others, it might be learning about the science of climate change and how their art can represent those processes in a way that makes them accessible to other people.

SMFA’s approach also teaches students to be entrepreneurial, says Fultineer, a founding principal of Reisen Design Associates, where she practiced for almost 20 years. “That preparation is important,” she says, “because we live in an increasingly complex world with challenging issues. The ability to navigate these complexities requires skills that build the ‘intellectual muscle’ to determine what knowledge you need, go after it, assess what you’re learning, and apply it.”

A foundational skill, adds Fultineer, is “learning to become comfortable with ambiguity.” Pathways to success, she says, are rarely linear; often they resemble a network of knowledge that nourishes itself. Fultineer believes the ability to navigate ambiguity is particularly valuable when large groups address complex problems such as social justice and historical exclusion. She wants to nurture approaches that may be nuanced and messy but yield significant results.

As a landscape architect, Fultineer relishes working with living material because of the special relationship between artist and material. “Is it going to grow, thrive, or die? There’s an ethical dimension that I love,” she says. She traces at least part of her scholarly interest in how cultural practices influence human shaping of the landscape to her grandfather, a minister who often offered services outdoors, and being raised partially among people with a deep practical and spiritual relationship with the land.

Earning master’s degrees in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School and landscape architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design helped her integrate her disparate interests. It also taught her how to sit across the table from people with diametrically opposed views and “argue ideas” in a way that brought understanding and the ability to work together. “That was a very precious thing to learn, and it’s a set of skills I want to keep honing,” she says.

Fultineer’s research—much of it funded by the National Science Foundation—has examined the challenge of incorporating sustainability into our landscapes, whether the issue is declining shellfish populations or deciding whether and how to restore failing regional dams. Effective solutions require public engagement, says Fultineer, and the arts are uniquely able to foster such understanding, for example, through images showing how an oyster’s tiny foot must attach to a stable base in order to thrive.

Her work has inspired novel art courses such as “Oysterculture: Creating Sculptural Shellfish Habitat” and “The Future of Dams: Visualizing Alternative Scenarios.”

“These courses have been among the richest teaching experiences I’ve had because students are hungry to address these topics and bring so much to these courses,” says Fultineer.

Fultineer’s appointment follows an extensive national search launched after the untimely passing of Margaret Vendryes, who had been named incoming dean in January.

Nate Harrison, SMFA dean ad interim, and Eulogio Guzmán, faculty affairs advisor to the SMFA dean ad interim, will provide continued leadership until Fultineer joins SMFA January 1. “We’re greatly indebted to them for their ongoing support,” said Glaser.

While Fultineer says she has a lot more to learn about SMFA and the university as she takes a “ground up approach to growth,” a clear priority has emerged from her conversations so far.

“One of the things I hope to work on right away is knitting SMFA more deeply into the larger university,” she says. “The students and faculty at the school have so much to offer, and so many different talents and abilities to focus on today’s issues. Having a strong and vital engagement with the larger student body and faculty will be beneficial to everyone. I’m looking forward to doing everything I can to create that sense of active community.”

Baking Bridges the Gap Between Art and Science


Many would argue that the natural sciences and the fine arts are on completely different sides of the spectrum and require totally different approaches. The study of extinct animals seems to be as far from oil painting as one could get. At first glance, science and food are also completely different: one a practical activity conducted by some of the greatest minds in the world, and another a form of self-expression undertaken by some of the most creative people in the world.

However, when you take a closer look at each — science and food, that is — it becomes evident that they work hand in hand, fueling one another in a continuous cycle. A prime example of this: baking.

Daydream Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches is “a woman owned and family run company that believes in the power of people and their dreams.” Based in Atlanta, Ga., and founded by Kathy Carpenter in 2021, Daydream combines its made-from-scratch brownies, ice cream and mix-ins to create a treat worthy of a love letter. Not only are Daydream sandwiches a delicious combination of chocolate and ice cream, but they are also an interesting combination of science and the arts.

While culinary arts would seem to rely more heavily on the side of arts and self-expression, it is truly also a form of science. Every gram and teaspoon plays a part in the final creation, and being just slightly off can ruin your treat. Baking powder and baking soda are obvious essentials when making any baked goods, but using even slightly too little can result in a dense final product. Too much sugar or too little salt can ruin the taste, and once you put your creation in the oven, it’s too late to go back and fix any chemical reaction mistakes you make in the mixing phase.

Every ingredient one uses in baking has a specific role to play and causes a specific reaction. Baking powder and soda help the mixture to rise, while flour provides structure and eggs bind everything together.

The ingredient ratios are also important: Keeping everything proportional allows for each ingredient to do its job properly. When baking, it is important to use exact measurements rather than ‘eyeballing’ amounts. If a typical recipe calls for four tablespoons of salt, four tablespoons is what should be added.

At the same time, baking is part of the culinary arts. Like any other form of cooking or food art, it expresses an individual’s soul in the final product. Coming up with new recipes and flavors requires creativity and passion in addition to a basic understanding of chemistry.

For example, take one of Daydream’s new fall flavors: the Boozy Bourbon Maple Bacon (BBMB). This dessert consists of simple syrup, bourbon, maple syrup and cooked chopped bacon bits mixed into a simple vanilla ice cream base sandwiched between two thick brownies. The idea to combine these different ingredients into one truly shows the mind of a creative and a scientist. Bourbon complements chocolate, bringing out the best flavors of the brownie, while maple and bacon are a staple pairing. With the vanilla base to balance it all out, the BBMB understands how to use a wealth of different flavors without being overwhelming.

The idea to put these ingredients together shows an understanding of how different flavors complement each other and how different ingredients can have an effect on the final product. Baking with bourbon specifically shows an understanding of how to make an otherwise heavy baked good lighter and richer.

Creating such a product as the BBMB is itself a bridge between science and art. Knowledge of how different flavors can complement and impact one another allows one to explore creative ways to put together new creations. Baking is food science, and the culinary arts are bridges between the natural sciences and fine arts. Simply put, excelling in both fields allows one to create foods worthy of mounds of praise.

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