A Tufts University group is calling for the university to allow prisoners who take classes affiliated with the school to be able to earn a bachelor’s degree — because such would further “racial and economic justice.”
The Tufts Community Union Senate passed the resolution introduced by the Tufts University Prison Initiative at Tisch College (TUPIT) late last month.
According to The Tufts Daily, at present prisoners can earn an associate degree in liberal arts from Bunker Hill Community College via Tufts courses. TUPIT wants incarcerated individuals to be eligible for a bachelor’s degree in civic studies directly from Tufts.
TUPIT’s Claudia Guetta said incarcerated students taking Tufts classes deserve the opportunity to earn the same degree as any other (Tufts) undergrad.
“They’re taking the same courses that Tufts’ arts and sciences students do […] for equal credits,” Guetta said. She added it should be an “equal degree for people […] who are doing the equal work.”
TUPIT Founding Director Hilary Binda said the civic studies degree is popular due to prisoners’ desire to work in “the arena of social justice and community building” during and after their prison stay.
Guetta explained that TUPIT’s mission and the proposed bachelor’s degree program align with Tufts’ initiative to become an anti-racist institution.
“We see TUPIT’s work as furthering racial and economic justice and really aligning with the university’s dedication to becoming an anti-racist institution,” Guetta said. “We see this program as not only really tangibly beginning the work of dismantling institutional racism and elitism, but also uplifting the value of the Tufts arts and sciences’ bachelor’s degree.”
[Resolution author Alex] Lein expanded on Guetta’s point.
“The pandemic has highlighted health and socioeconomic inequities, alongside increasingly widespread conversations about racism and anti-racist pedagogy and efforts here at Tufts,” he said. “We ought to put those words into action, and I think this is one of the many ways that we can do that.”
Binda said the resolution is a “really exciting moment” for Tufts as the university can “assume a position of real national leadership in the field of higher education and civic education.” Instead of “priding” itself on how selective it is, she said, Tufts can now do so for its “inclusivity.”
Faculty from the School of Arts and Sciences will vote on the TUPIT resolution next month.
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