Light on the Hill, Volume IIMiller, Russell
EVEN BEFORE an unpredicted over-acceptance created a critical student housing shortage for undergraduates in the fall of 1977, the administration and the trustees were aware that no additional residential facilities had been provided since 1970. This situation existed in spite of the fact that the undergraduate student population had risen from less than 3,600 in 1970 to almost 4,200 by 1976. Singles had become doubles, doubles had become triples, and lounge and study areas had been converted into living space.
In the spring of 1977 the trustees authorized a request for a federal loan of $5,307,000 to finance the construction of eleven three-story, apartment-type dormitories to house 480. The units (later reduced to eight) were to have been built between Cousens Gymnasium and the Eliot-Pearson School on what, after World War II, had been the site of Stearns Village, a veterans' housing project. Legal complications associated largely with objections by Medford residents forced a relocation of a portion of what became a two-phase project to a site at the end of Latin Way on the south side of the campus, behind the Pearson Chemical Laboratory. A building providing 221 beds was located there in time to take advantage of federal funding. Construction commmenced in 1979 at a cost of $3,108,000, with $451,000 from university funds, and the building was ready for occupancy in September 1980. The new dormitory provided apartment-type quarters, with a choice of facilities for groups of either four or ten students.
Particular urgency attached to the provision of more dormitory space by the fall of 1977, delayed as it was by controversy over the original site. There was an over-enrollment of more than 400. Instead of an anticipated 30 percent acceptance rate, the figure jumped unexpectedly to 40 percent. The entering class totalled more than 1,400 instead of the 1,050 planned for. There was no room at all for transfer students, and no accommodations either on or in the vicinity of the campus for more than 150. So the university hastily arranged for the lease of two floors of the Sheraton Commander Hotel in Cambridge, near Harvard Square, for 170 upperclassmen. The
|arrangement was a costly one, for the hotel accommodations, the necessity for additional resident advisors, and the provision of twenty-four-hour bus transportation to and from the campus, more than offset the additional tuition revenue resulting from the over-enrollment.|
The situation was made even more critical by the fact that the Latin Way dormitory had a capacity of less than half of that called for in the original plan. So in February 1980 the decision was made to construct a 216-bed apartment-style dormitory on Medford Hillside, on the northern side of the campus. All but $505,000 of the estimated cost of $3,114,000 was provided by the remainder of the federal loan. In order not to repeat the situation of 1977 a determined effort was made to limit admission to about 1,100 and to reduce the on-campus full-time undergraduate population to about 4,200 after the "bulge" class graduated in 1981. The university was then able to provide residential housing for approximately 70 percent of the undergraduate student body without undue congestion, although pressure continued unabated for even more dormitory space.
Maintaining a balance between student housing facilities and the anticipated student population was a recurrent problem of long standing that was never completely resolved. "The great problem of the next five years will be, how to accommodate all who are coming. We shall need, and must have speedily, new dormitories and recitation buildings." These words were not written between 1950 and 1980 but by Elmer H. Capen, the third president of Tufts, in 1893, a year after the institution became coeducational and the undergraduate student body was approaching 350.
The year 1984 was marked by further physical growth and change, with the ongoing construction of the hospital for small animals in Grafton, the Sackler Center for Health Communications in Boston, and the virtual completion of the Elizabeth van Huysen Mayer Campus Center, dedicated in February 1985. More than $7 million was expended on construction, renovation, and maintenance projects in 1984 alone. The university was also granted funds in 1983 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to develop plans for a Center for Environmental Technology, Health and Policy Research to address the issues of hazardous wastes which had reached critical dimensions by the mid-1980s. More locally, it was hoped that the new center could be used to "revitalize" the College of Engineering and "elevate its stature."
Of all the construction activities of the 1980s, it was the building of the campus center that meant the most to the undergraduates in
|Medford. It had been one of Tufts' most unbuilt structures until groundbreaking ceremonies were held on 9 May 1983, exactly seventy years after agitation for such a building had begun.|
The first recommendation for a "student social center" had come from Frank G. Wren, long-time Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He had suggested in 1913 that Packard Hall be turned into a campus center, with boarding facilities for those not eating in fraternity dining rooms. The next recommendation came in 1921 from President John A. Cousens. Three years later the students organized a Tufts Union to help raise money for a campus center which would have included an auditorium for dramatic productions. They had to settle for a club room in Curtis Hall.
The most comprehensive plan was offered in 1934-35. It called for a combined alumni and student center to have been constructed between East and West Halls. (The bookstore building did not exist until 1948.) The idea was either to incorporate Packard Hall into the new building or tear it down - preferably the latter. The campus center was to contain an auditorium, complete with a stage, and to seat 1,000. Besides office and meeting rooms for student organizations, there were to be rooms for overnight guests and a large cafeteria. That project progressed as far as architect's sketches. The plan was a casualty of the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1935 the Alumni Council agreed to raise the funds for the "stupendous project" of a campus center that would have cost half a million dollars — apparently too much for them to raise. It was twenty years before another plan was offered. The then-Tufts Student Council (the predecessor of the Tufts Community Union) revived the idea in 1955 and started to raise money for such a building, but the idea fizzled.
Every president of Tufts for the next quarter of a century called for a campus center. In 1955 Nils Y. Wessell called a student center a "pressing need," but again nothing was done. The central library named after him became the unofficial social center instead, supplemented by limited facilities provided in what had been the main reading room of Eaton Memorial Library. When a comprehensive self-study was made between 1956 and 1958, financed by the Carnegie Corporation, the same recommendation was high on the list of priorities, but with the same non-results. Ten years later an outside consulting firm drew up a master plan for the campus which included a campus center.
Another proposal was made in 1971 and was offered by C. Russell DeBurlo, then Vice-President for Planning and later the institution's treasurer. But nothing came of it, the victim of financial
|considerations. A plan to construct a center was drawn up in 1975 but had to be shelved because of the fire in Barnum Hall and the need to rearrange priorities.|
By the time Mayer became president in 1976, the demand for a campus center had extended to the faculty. He was confronted with questions about it at the second meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences over which he presided as the new president in October of that year. This time the effort was successful, but only after much discussion, many delays, and numerous changes of plans.
President Mayer was as fully committed to providing a campus center as most of his predecessors had been, and he authorized the preparation of architectural plans. Two proposals called for a building to cost an estimated $4.4 million, and yet another considered five possible locations. Further delays ensued because the president insisted that the building be financed exclusively out of private contributions rather than use university funds for a non-academic structure.
Bernard Harleston, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a strong supporter of the campus center idea, established a
|Campus Center Task Force in 1978 which commissioned a financial feasibility study calling for an expenditure of $5,325,000. Interested students labored mightily in preparing the report. The treasurer of the Tufts Community Union was responsible, with the guidance of David Moffatt, Vice-President/Operations, for preparing the report. No positive action relating to the campus center was taken by the trustees in 1979 but prospects were more encouraging when it was included in the five-year capital campaign (1980-85). The largest single gift, which turned the campus center into more than a dream, was made in 1981 by a close friend of President Mayer. The anonymous donor made available $2 million in matching funds with the understanding that the Center be named for Mrs. Mayer. Meanwhile, the plan had been reduced in scale and divided into phases; the estimated cost was established at less than $4 million. Among the facilities postponed to a later date were provision of a faculty dining room and space for the university bookstore as well as additional student offices.|
The winner of an architectural competition was the firm of Jung/ Brannen Associates which submitted plans in 1982 for a three-story building facing on Professors Row, at a cost of $2.7 million. The historic Brown-Durkee house had to be razed to make way for the new structure. On the Talbot Avenue (south side) of the building, two private residences owned by the university were removed - one razed and the other moved to another location.
The long-awaited campus center was enthusiastically received by the student body and the offices on the second floor were immediately filled to overflowing by the personnel of seven major student organizations. The new structure, with lounge facilities, a cafeteria, and conference rooms, was the winner of three architectural prizes, and not only eased the growing congestion in existing buildings and dining halls but provided a valuable means of tying together the campus by providing a focal point for student activities. The new center went far to strengthen the "sense of community" among Tufts inhabitants on the Hill which had been sought for so long. The opening of the new building contributed significantly to the "renaissance of spirit" which seemed to characterize the student body as well as the institution at large.
Light on the Hill, the second volume of the history of Tufts University, was published in 1986, covering the years from 1952 to 1986. This doucument was created from the 1986 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume II.