Faculty and the Affordable Housing Project

Many students are extremely upset about the views expressed by some professors about the likely occupants of the affordable housing project at 132 Northampton Rd., as first reported in The Student on Nov. 13.

The linked letters submitted to the Town Council represent the voices of a small number of faculty members who, except for one, opposed the affordable housing project. These voices were upsetting and harmful to low-income students’ sense of belonging and respect in our campus community.

Not surprisingly, many low-income students have felt demeaned by the assumptions made about the occupants, people with whom they identify.

Regardless of the intentions of the signatories, students have taken these assumptions personally as an indication of how they might also be viewed by the faculty of this college. It was easy for them to quickly conclude that they, too, may be seen as “other,” as “them” and not as “us.”

When asked by our class, “What do other faculty think?” we were embarrassed to admit that outside of faculty meetings, there are no structures in place for faculty to regularly have important conversations about issues that we as a community face, and so we could only speculate.

The full faculty has not met since this story came out and is unlikely to meet before the semester ends, but we have spoken informally with many members of the faculty who want students to know that the views expressed in letters to the Town Council are not representative of their views.

If the college is committed to ensuring that every student here feels included, then clearly we have much more work to do. Individually, we must think more deeply about the beliefs we may unwittingly carry and how those beliefs may be harming others. Even if the “controversy” over the housing project “blows over” there has been harm done that needs repair.

Among the many things that this situation has revealed about the community is that students are longing for and need to hear the voices of more faculty.

We need to create opportunities for dialogue among and between students and faculty before the semester ends. We hope that other faculty members will add their voices to the conversation.