Tufts University (originally called Tufts College) was founded by the Universalist Church in 1852 on land donated for the purpose by Charles Tufts. Tufts’ intention was for the college to be “the light on the hill,” its Walnut Hill location being the highest point in the town of Medford, MA. One of the earliest donors to Tufts, P.T. Barnum provided the money to build the Barnum Museum of Natural History, along with his prized elephant Jumbo, who became the school’s mascot.
The school first admitted women in 1892, on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The well-respected Fletcher School of law and Diplomacy was established in 1933, and in 1950s the school officially became Tufts University. The presidency of Jean Mayer, beginning in the 1970s ushered in an era of much expansion, and today it is organized into ten different schools in the Medford/Somerville area outside of Boston.
Tufts is located atop Walnut Hill in Medford, MA. As the campus expanded over the years, two distinct areas developed - up-hill and down-hill, each with its own character. The two areas each have their own dorms and dining halls and perks. Upperhillers say that their dining hall is better, but Downhillers counter that they have easier access to frat row and its parties.
The top of the hill, the oldest part of campus, is arranged around an open quad. Ballou Hall, the oldest building on campus, is there, next to which are the Goddard Chapel on one side, and Barnum Hall on the other. Bendetson Hall, where the office of undergraduate admissions is located is across the quad. Dowling Hall, the students services center is to the north, down the hill a bit, and the Cousens Gym is across Boston Avenue from Dowling – the pool and other recreational facilities are in the same general location. Tisch Library is to the south of the central quad, also downhill a bit on the other side and looks out on Professors Row.
Tufts is located in Medford/Somerville, MA, close to Boston. The small, suburban town is a good size for college students, and the fact that the bigger city of Boston is nearby gives students some more diverse entertainment options, should they tire of the area right around school. The location near the city also is great for internship, job, and networking opportunities.
Susan Golbe ’11 says of the Medford/Somerville area, "The street address for Tufts is Medford, MA but the campus spans the border of Somerville and Medford. The two towns are suburbs of Boston, about five miles away. You can catch the T to Boston in Davis Square – a ten-minute walk or shuttle ride from campus. Somerville is a gentrifying town of artists, immigrants and college students. Davis Square offers some great restaurants and a movie theater and the middle of Boston is less than 20 minutes away on the T."
Each year the students have a Naked Quad Run just before finals.
Right before Halloween, the Tufts Mountain Club places pumpkins in absurd (and often difficult to reach) places.
Hank Azaria is a comedic actor and voice artist who plays several main characters on The Simpsons.
Jessica Biel (attended) is a film and television actress.
Jamie Dimon is the CEO of JP Morgan Chase.
Meg Hourihan is the co-founder of Pyra Labs, Blogger, and Kinja.
Jeffrey Kindler (1977) is the CEO of Pfizer.
Tufts teams compete at the Division III level of the NCAA and in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. The men’s and women’s squash teams, and coed and women’s sailing, compete at the Division I level.
Aside from Tufts’ 31 varsity sports, many students choose to form intramural teams each season. Men’s ultimate Frisbee is popular and often ranked among the top club Frisbee teams in the nation. Some other popular activities are the dance teams at Tufts. Tufts ballroom, the two Tufts Indian dance teams, Bhangra and Garba are particularly notable.
The school’s mascot, Jumbo, is named for P.T. Barnum’s favorite elephant, which was donated to the school after Barnum’s death.
The Boston Red Sox once used Tufts facilities for spring training in 1943, when gasoline limits forbade farther travel.
If you ask Tufts students what one aspect of Tufts they would really like to see improved, a lot would probably give an answer about residential life and facilities. While there are a variety of living options on campus for freshmen, sophomore, and seniors (juniors are not guaranteed housing and most choose to live off campus anyway), students often complain that the dorms are sub-par. Most students will choose their dorm based on location on campus or proximity to groups of friends.
Dorms range from ten person suites in a dingy brick building on top of the hill, to very respectable four- and six-person apartments downhill, to adequate doubles in either location.
There are three all-freshmen dorms on campus: Houston, Tilton, and Haskill. Houston and Tilton are both nice dorms with large doubles plus bathrooms with a lock and a single toilet and shower inside. Haskill is a bit more dingy but many students would be happy to live in any of the all-freshmen dorms, which tend to be more social. There are residential tutors in the freshmen dorms and the RAs (Residential Assistants) help students set up intramural teams and organize hall activities.
Other freshmen can live in a variety of places around campus ranging from the rather dull Lewis Hall with its constantly flooding bathrooms to the lush Miller Hall with comfortable common rooms and spacious doubles.
Residential Life at Tufts runs a lottery for housing every year. Tufts students joke that the worst day of their lives was the day they chose housing for sophomore year. It is stressful and many friendships cannot bear the strain. The system randomly assigns numbers to each student.
Students average their numbers with roommates and then choose dorms during a block of time. Desirable housing goes quickly and it can be hard to know if you and all your friends will get to live together.
Tufts students are working with the administration to improve both the lottery system and the quality of living conditions in the less desirable dorms. The administration is receptive to ideas and suggestions.