Exiting the Echo Chamber

by Kathleen Nay

Many of us were unexpectedly blindsided by the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, but maybe we shouldn’t have been. Four Friedman students saw a need for greater diversity in our political discourse, and decided to do something about it. They piloted Let’s Talk, a four-week program designed to help fellow students engage in more respectful, tolerant, and empathetic dialogue with people of diverse political perspectives.

On November 9 of last year, I woke up reeling. I had truly not expected the results of the previous evening. In the days and weeks leading up to the election I had felt lighthearted. I was sure that someone as awful as Donald Trump couldn’t win the presidency. I felt optimistic that we’d soon have our first female president. I believed, generally, in the goodness of America.

So to wake up to a Trump presidency was, for me, devastating. I felt utterly blindsided. Looking around at the somber faces of my fellow Boston commuters that morning, I recognized that I wasn’t alone in my stupefaction.

It seems painfully, unnervingly obvious now, but at the time I wondered, how did we not see this coming? What did we miss? In the days and weeks immediately following the election, the answer surfaced in the form of two words: “echo chamber.” Apparently, these exist and we—or at least, I—live in one. Worse, it’s an echo chamber of my own making, thanks to my liberally curated social media feeds and preferred news outlets.

Shortly after Election Day I attended a presentation given by J.J. Bartlett, President of Fishing Partnership Support Services, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for the health and wellbeing of fishermen and their families. In his talk, he said something that felt like a punch to the gut: “We ignore the primal scream of blue-collar workers at our own peril.” The words cut so deeply that I wrote them down. I knew that, as a student studying agriculture policy and hoping to someday work among and advocate for farmers and ranchers—the rural working class—I could no longer afford to ignore the primal scream that elected Donald J. Trump.

Fellow Friedman students Eva Greenthal, Kelly Kundratic, Hannah Kitchel, and Laura Barley had been awakened to the same realization—and decided to do something about it. “I did not personally know a single person who voted for Trump, and I really wanted to understand their motivations,” wrote Eva, in an email to me. “Frustrated by the lack of ‘opinion diversity’ at Friedman, I knew I would have to look beyond our university to gain this insight.” So she made a plan, joined forces with Kelly, Hannah, and Laura, and applied for funding from the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement to pilot Let’s Talk, a research study designed to help students of diverse political leanings “exit the echo chamber.”

They partnered with Kelly’s alma mater, the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design. While several school names were tossed around, WVU’s Davis College was an ideal candidate because, similar to the Friedman School, they offer graduate degrees in both agriculture and human nutrition. The program would work like this: Participants at both schools would dedicate 90 minutes per week over four weeks to ‘meet’ virtually and discuss the future of food, nutrition and agriculture over the course of the new administration, with the intent to identify common goals across party lines. The organizers would administer pre- and post-surveys, to assess whether participants’ perspectives on political topics changed after hearing the perspectives, hopes, and fears of their peers. Key objectives of the program were to promote mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding, and to challenge political stereotypes. Eva connected with Ask Big Questions (ABQ), an organization that provides dialogue facilitation training, so that the team could learn to lead positive and productive conversations.

The ABQ format is simple. It’s predicated on the idea that “big questions” are those that matter to everyone, anyone can answer, and invite people to share from their own experiences. By contrast, “hard questions” are those that matter to some people and require a level of expertise to answer; they tend to close conversational spaces and lead to debates about who is right and wrong. (Political arguments are often framed by these types of questions, appealing to people’s certainties of “right” and “wrong,” “truth” and “alternative truth.”)

Big Questions vs. Hard Questions. AskBigQuestions.org

Big Questions vs. Hard Questions. AskBigQuestions.org

Using the ABQ model, the Let’s Talk team devised big questions that, while tied to political issues, they felt everyone could relate to. These included “How do we connect?,” “What do we assume?,” and “Who are we responsible for?” By design, these questions are broad and ambiguous. But Eva, Kelly, Hannah and Laura, along with the facilitators at WVU, coupled the questions with media clips—PSA videos, TED Talks, and news media addressing food-and-agriculture issues—to give them context and guide more in-depth conversation.

“I like that this format for conversation allows me to speak from my experiences to explain why I feel the way I do about difficult topics,” writes Kelly. “Too often we see others engaging in conversation that can be either very defensive or offensive, and no one leaves…feeling accomplished. When you learn to speak with your experiences, it’s easier to see others as culminations of experience, and have a better understanding of the topic and the speakers.”

Laura added that keeping communication lines open with certain family members that voted for Trump has, for her, been of utmost importance in preserving those relationships since the election. She wanted to help facilitate that for others through Let’s Talk. To ensure respectful dialogue throughout the course of the project, participants brainstormed an “Agreement of Mutual Responsibility” designed to hold one another accountable. Among the things participants were mutually responsible for were directives to use “I” statements, to speak from personal experience as often as possible, and to listen with intent to understand.

Let's Talk Project Goals and Agreement of Mutual Understanding. Photos: Kathleen Nay

Let’s Talk Project Goals and Agreement of Mutual Responsibility. Photos: Kathleen Nay

When asked why they feel Let’s Talk is an important endeavor for the Friedman School to take on, all four organizers agreed that while interdisciplinary work is a cornerstone of the Friedman agenda, there’s a level of political diversity missing from our education. “We need more interdisciplinary work that also crosses state lines and regions,” says Hannah. Laura adds that Let’s Talk “feels like a much-needed expansion of our essential coursework, and delivers us from circulating the same policy discussions that we have in class.” They hope that Let’s Talk can serve as a replicable model that other schools might use to facilitate dialogue among students of varying political persuasions.

As a Let’s Talk participant, I was eager to engage in political discourse with the students at WVU, but I frequently felt frustrated when our 90-minute sessions ended just as the conversation was getting deep. Eva acknowledges that time has been a challenge from the beginning—the time needed to adequately develop the project since the idea formed in November, the time that each organizer was able to commit to planning and preparation, and the amount of time they felt they could fairly ask participants to dedicate each week. But the fact that so many students signed up to participate, despite adding an extra 90 minutes per week to everyone’s already-busy schedules, speaks volumes: Friedman students value opportunities for cross-political dialogue.

Although I’ve been disappointed that the time constraints have capped the length and depth of our Let’s Talk sessions, I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged by the initiative of my Friedman colleagues and inspired by their clear-eyed vision for political discourse that is respectful, tolerant, and empathetic. I’m hopeful, too, that although Let’s Talk has now ended, our conversations won’t; one component of the program has been to match participants with email “pen pals” at the partner school for future correspondence.

While I was disappointed that our discussions didn’t go deeper, I feel that even after only four weeks, I am better equipped to confront my own assumptions and to listen to why, not just what, people believe. Let’s Talk introduced me to a toolbox of conversation techniques that will make me more receptive to diversified political dialogue. It’s an important first step toward shattering our personally- and artificially-crafted echo chambers. The Friedman School has work to do. And I do, too.

Kathleen Nay is an AFE/UEP student in her second year. Eva Greenthal is a first year FPAN MS/MPH student. Kelly Kundratic, Hannah Kitchel and Laura Barley are first year AFE students. Let’s Talk was funded by the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement, the Friedman School, Friedman Student Council, and three generous individual donors.

 

Agricultural Workers Should Organize

by Maddy Bennett

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a farm workers’ rights group founded by laborers on Florida’s tomato farms. The organization now operates in many states to secure fair wages and to oppose involuntary servitude in the U.S. agriculture industry. CIW succeeded in bringing large food retailers to meet the terms of the group’s Fair Food Program. The work of CIW proves that when labor organizes to reclaim its rights, society benefits. Learn more by attending Friedman Seminar on April 19.

The valorized “efficiency” of the American farming system has historically relied upon shamefully poor living and working conditions for farm laborers, who, in the post-slavery era, were often immigrants. Slavery, indentured servitude, sharecropping, and guest worker programs provided exploitative and profitable business models rooted in unjust and predatory landowner–laborer relations. Today, the mistreatment of labor in agriculture remains a national embarrassment and a poignant reminder of our country’s apparent incapacity to rectify the historical and ongoing injustices committed against these indispensible yet highly vulnerable workers.

Now more than ever, large-scale fruit and vegetable farms in the United States are heavily dependent on migrant labor coming largely from Mexico and Central America. As most of these migrants are undocumented, they live and work under especially precarious conditions and may therefore be hesitant to organize to demand better wages, humane working standards, and an end to human trafficking, sexual abuse, and gender-based violence prevalent in farm labor. Yet those who dismiss farm labor abuses allege that the current paradigm is a necessary evil—or simply an inevitability—required to meet both the scale of production and low prices demanded by consumers. Not only is this patently false, but such a facile argument serves to discredit the development of alternatives to oppressive practices in the American farming system. In fact, one such alternative has proven its success in securing workers’ rights without unduly burdening farm owners, food retailers, or consumers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a workers’ rights and social justice organization started by farm laborers in Immokalee, Florida in 1993 in response to falling wages in the state’s tomato industry. CIW gained influence and industry recognition after organizing a hunger strike, a series of work stoppages, and fast food franchise boycotts that brought about improvements in wages and working conditions for tomato harvesters in Florida. CIW has also led the fight against endemic human trafficking and slavery taking place on American farms.

Six years ago, CIW rolled out the Fair Food Program (FFP) that educates farm workers about their rights and conducts third-party monitoring to ensure that just labor practices are being followed. FFP enlists large retailers, including Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, to sign on to be Fair Food Certified. By paying a premium, retailers help finance the enforcement of good labor standards, thus ensuring that worker dignity and human rights are upheld on tomato farms in Florida. Since 2015, FFP’s reach has expanded to farm laborers across six other states. Through its Campaign for Fair Food, CIW has educated consumers about the causes of and solutions to the rampant abuses against farm laborers. Mobilizing consumers to apply pressure to the largest food retailers has led to 14 companies joining FFP.

CIW is proof that farm worker agency, the right to organize, and cooperation among laborers, farm owners, and corporate retailers can help eradicate the scourge of unfair and inhumane labor practices and abuses in American agriculture, and that doing so need not come at the expense of consumers.

To learn more about CIW and its endeavors, please attend the Friedman Seminar on April 19—brought to you by the Friedman Justice League—during which CIW organizers will share their experiences, successes, and struggles.

Maddy Bennett is a second-year FPAN student and anti-work leftist from subtropical Texas. She enjoys vegan baking and tweeting hot takes.

Turning a Moment into a Movement

by Sam Hoeffler

Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Now what? Join the movement.

As a protester at Trump’s inauguration in D.C. on Friday January 20th, I met many people who did not identify as activists. I encountered people who had never in their lives been motivated to make signs and march in protest. It was inspiring to see so many people in the streets on Friday, and an estimated 3.3 million people across the country marched on Saturday too. Yet in the afterglow of one of the largest demonstrations in national history, we mustn’t forget our reason for protesting: the rise of nationalism and fear mongering that brought Trump to office.

Trump is poised to push our country off a metaphorical ledge, where we would fall into cronyism, oligarchy, denial of science, restraint of the press, and deeper social inequality and unrest. We the people are the only thing holding the country back from that ledge and what lies below. We the people, standing with linked arms and clasped hands, must inch the country back to solid ground. We need to rediscover and reclaim a solid ground where we can come together and fight for the rights of all Americans to live full, healthy lives.

We need to transition from this historic moment of protest to a unified movement that demands change. The moment becomes a movement when we do not simply hold our elected officials back from running the country off a ledge, but when we begin to take action and shape this country with our own hands. We must look downward, at our own feet, at our own hands, at our own communities, and get organized.

The leaders of the Women’s March on Washington are making our transition into the movement easier. They’re offering us a clear way to get engaged, calling for people to take part in 10 Actions in 100 Days. The Friedman Justice League will be facilitating each of the ten collective actions proposed by the Women’s March on Washington organizers. The first action has been published, and it is a call for postcard- and letter-writing to elected officials.

Let’s let our politicians know that we are not going back to sleep. We have been pulled to the streets, and we want to be a part of the positive change that can come after such an outpouring of activism, advocacy, hope, and protest. All Friedman community members—students, staff, and faculty—are welcome to take part in a postcard-writing event this week. FJL will provide the supplies, and even information on certain topics and addresses of elected officials.

This event is a first step in turning this moment into a movement. See you there!

WHEN: Wednesday, February 1st (11:15-12:15) and Thursday February 2nd (12:30-1:15)

WHERE: Jaharis café

WHAT: FJL will have a table with all necessary supplies for postcards and letters

CONTACT: samantha.hoeffler@tufts.edu, caitlin.joseph@tufts.edu

Following our Food: A Northern California Supply Chain Adventure

by Christina Skonberg and Krissy Scommegna

How do people at different points of food production make decisions? As part of a directed study on Sustainable Supply Chain Management, Friedman students Krissy Scommegna and Christina Skonberg spoke with representatives at three different food and beverage businesses in California to learn how producers weigh costs and benefits to yield optimal results.

While the Obamas packed up the last of their belongings at the White House on January 19, 2017, we walked through the doors of Jaharis for our last first day of school ever (hats off to the indefatigable PhD students who may still have a few more to go). As we anticipate our transition away from Harrison Avenue in May, we reflect on this crossroads between academia and employment. The Agriculture, Food, and Environment curriculum has taught us to use sound data sources and unbiased modeling techniques to substantiate every claim we make, encouraged us to address how the food system disproportionately advantages some at the expense of others, helped us develop a systems approach to analyzing food production and consumption, and much, much more.

As we embark on one last semester of group study sessions and post-class beers, we return to a central question that drove many of us to attend graduate school in the first place:

How will we effectively apply these tools to real situations involving real people beyond the boundaries of academia? Do farmers in the Northern Plains actually develop quantitative models to determine which wheat varieties they should cultivate given climatic conditions, prices, and market demand? Do food and beverage packaging specialists conduct elaborate life cycle assessments to determine which materials have the lowest carbon footprint? Do retailers meticulously vet suppliers based on environmentally sound soil management practices? Or, do many of these producers forego elaborate methodologies to instead make decisions based on instinct and habit?

In our last four months at Friedman, we’re seeking to address some of these questions through a directed study on Sustainable Supply Chain Management. In speaking with over 20 food industry professionals who operate at different points of diverse supply chains around the country (read: Nebraskan cattle ranchers, Californian coffee procurement specialists, and Pennsylvanian butchers), we hope to explore how food producers optimize outcomes given their unique goals and constraints. In the classroom, we immerse ourselves in the minutiae of soil health, herbicide resistance, tillage techniques, and other important facets of on-farm production. Through site visits and interviews, we hope to deepen our understanding of decisions and tradeoffs beyond the farm gate and into the manufacturing, distribution, retail, and waste sectors of the wider food system.

Eager to escape the New England winter and set out on our supply chain quest, we ventured to Northern California over winter break to conduct our first few interviews. Below, we share stories from a handful of the inspiring producers we met.

Front Porch Farms: Healdsburg, California

Interviewee: Johnny Wilson, Farm Manager

Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg, California Photo from Front Porch Farm’s Official Website: https://fpfarm.com/

Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg, California
Photo from Front Porch Farm’s Official Website: https://fpfarm.com/

On a rare rainy day in Northern California, we trekked to bucolic Healdsburg to see how Front Porch Farm Manager Johnny Wilson cultivates the scenic 110 acre, 30+ crop farm. Perhaps most famous for their perennial cut flowers, wines, and Italian heritage polenta, Front Porch Farm is in many ways a paradigm of ecologically sound production. Drip irrigation systems line orchards, organic compost fertilizes fields, and their giant but gentle puppy Hilde assists in predator control. When asked about how the team determines which seeds to select from catalogs like Baker’s Creek and Seed Savers Exchange (yes, farmers still buy seeds from catalogs!), Johnny explained that while profitability is an undeniably important factor, the team also focuses on the ecological and cultural significance of crops. Enriching the agricultural diversity of Sonoma County (winegrape cultivation currently dominates the region), maintaining a polyculture system that fosters long term soil health and wildlife biodiversity, and experimenting with new varieties that excite the team are all considerations that go into the seed selection process. For Front Porch Farm, the generation of social and environmental value is inextricably linked to the success of their business. To see what diversified farming looks like at Front Porch, check out the map of their impressive agricultural mosaic in Healdsburg.

Blue Bottle Coffee: Oakland, California

Interviewees: Jen Flaxman, Learning and Development Manager & Melissa Tovin, Finance Operations Manager

Blue Bottle’s Roastery and Production Facility in Oakland, California Photo from the Washington Business Journal, December 2016

Blue Bottle’s Roastery and Production Facility in Oakland, California
Photo from the Washington Business Journal, December 2016

Jen Flaxman and Melissa Tovin of Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland are intimately familiar with the complexity of international supply chains. As the Learning and Development Program Manager, Jen ensures that effective employee training and education programs help Blue Bottle employees in California, New York, and Japan thrive in their jobs. Melissa is Blue Bottle’s Finance Operations Manager and she spends much of her time forecasting appropriate procurement quantities for all Blue Bottle cafes (there are 33 globally). Among the many fascinating things we learned from Jen and Melissa was that much of the decision making around procurement quantities of green coffee (unroasted coffee beans) lies within the Finance department of Blue Bottle rather than in the Production department. Melissa—a veritable Excel whiz—explained that this improves accuracy in predicting and meeting demand, allowing the company’s green coffee buyers to focus their energy on developing supplier relationships in the field and upholding coffee quality standards. For Blue Bottle, technical tools like modeling are critical to supply chain decisions, and starting this summer you can taste the quality yourself in Boston. (Students in Chris Peters’ Food Systems Modeling course this semester may want to take note and highlight those analytical skills on their resumes!).

Three Thieves: Napa, California

Interviewee: Roger Scommegna, Thief

Left: Current Packaging for Bandit 1L Tetra Pak; Right: Roger Scommegna in his element Photos Courtesy of Roger Scommegna

Left: Current Packaging for Bandit 1L Tetra Pak; Right: Roger Scommegna in his element
Photos Courtesy of Roger Scommegna

Over a warm cup of non-Blue Bottle Coffee in Berkeley, we discussed the wine industry with beverage entrepreneur Roger Scommegna. Full disclosure, he may have been coerced into this interview due to family ties. As one of the founders of Three Thieves, Roger has spent the past 16 years working to bring high quality wines to the masses at low prices—a noble cause for grad students on a budget. Three Thieves achieved this model by initially packaging their wine in one-liter glass jugs and later establishing an offshoot brand, Bandit, available in half and one-liter Tetra Paks instead of traditional bottles.

Roger provided many insights into the beverage industry, but perhaps most interesting was his perspective on getting products into retail establishments. Roger discussed “gatekeepers” (wine buyers at different grocery chains like Safeway and Costco), and their authority in determining which products to purchase, in what quantity, and at what frequency. While one might expect grocery chains to use a reliable algorithm to determine which products will fare best on shelves, these gatekeepers often make decisions based on the crucial relationship forged between client and buyer. This camaraderie, the client’s ability to highlight differentiating features of their product, and even the restaurant where the business dinner takes place can all sway purchasing decisions. The gatekeeper is a powerful stakeholder in this context and can have a profound influence on a supplier’s brand. Roger recounted an instance when a purchaser told him that while his grocery chain had once regarded Three Thieves as a cutting edge brand, a lack of rebranding efforts had rendered their products outdated. In a successful response, Three Thieves conducted a branding overhaul and regained the favor of this key buyer.

At this early stage in our adventure, we’ve learned that—as is typically the case in science—the answer to our question about how producers make supply chain decisions depends. It depends on product, scale, metrics of success, and several other factors. Some decisions are based on models and economic analysis while others are more grounded in personal experience and preference. We look forward to speaking with the rest of our gracious interviewees over the course of the semester to learn more about the tools and motivations people use to make discerning production decisions. We’re indebted to the professors and faculty who’ve poured their energy into honing our technical skills and expanding our intellectual curiosities, and we hope that this opportunity helps bridge our academic lives with the professional endeavors we pursue after graduation.

Christina Skonberg is a 2nd year AFE student from Berkeley, CA who is trying to embrace the New England winter but couldn’t resist smuggling a suitcase full of Californian produce back to Boston in January. Krissy Scommegna is also a 2nd year AFE student who was happy to see her home in Boonville, CA in its rainy glory in January, even if it meant digging trenches against flooding and building fires in the wood stove to stay warm. Second-year AFE student Carrie DeWitt will also be participating in this directed study, but was unable to attend meetings in California in January. Stay tuned for more information about their end of semester presentation on Best Practices in Supply Chain Management, coming in May.

The Friedman Justice League’s Response to the Strategic Plan Launch

by The Friedman Justice League

The Friedman Justice League (FJL) assesses how the recent unveiling of the Friedman School’s Strategic Plan aligns with its own goals and vision for the future, and offers input on how the plan can be effectively implemented. FJL’s internal goals are also expressed, and all Friedman students are welcomed to engage with these efforts, as they please!

Introduction

People of color and low-income people are more likely to experience the injustices perpetrated on both the production and consumption ends of the food system. Having broad racial and class representation in the Friedman School is key to producing alumni who can effectively navigate these issues throughout their careers. Therefore, Friedman Justice League (FJL) student group is eager to promote more diversified representation in our school community.

Last fall, FJL members gathered to conduct a visioning process, through which the group agreed on clear goals for engaging in the school’s Strategic Planning process. Our members served on several working groups and collaborated with other students, staff, and faculty to foster active engagement throughout the School. This planning process and our engagement with the administration over the past many years have led to numerous promising outcomes, including positive relationships with supportive members of the administration and increased opportunities to engage with faculty about curriculum improvements. Two FJL members sit on the Friedman School Diversity Task Force, and FJL members also helped plan the recent diversity and inclusion training at the Boston Health Science campus.

During the Strategic Plan Launch on November 15, we heard from President Monaco, Provost Harris, and Dean Mozaffarian about the Friedman School’s plan for advancing its mission “from cell to society.” Many of our members were present to listen, take notes, and pose questions. As a student organization committed to improving our School’s ability to address issues of discrimination and oppression within the food system, we paid particularly close attention to the  Strategic Plan goals that coincide with our own:

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-4-26-45-pm

Recognition

We acknowledge that the Strategic Plan includes many goals that align and overlap with some of our personal and group values, and are particularly supportive of Goals II, V, X, and XI, which we advocated for within the working groups. FJL specifically encourages the Friedman School to infuse these values in all of its goals by raising consciousness about justice and equity through its curricula and public impact actions. Dean Mozaffarian emphasized the role students played during the planning process in driving social justice priorities to the surface, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the plan. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Strategic Plan, as we monitor and support the implementation of these goals.

Furthermore, we are optimistic about the progress that is currently being made within Friedman’s Diversity Task Force, which has been working to establish a formal School structure to actualize the Strategic Plan goals related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The Task Force is comprised of the Academic Dean of Education, the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs*, the Associate Director of Admissions, one faculty member, one staff member, and two current FJL members.  The Diversity Task Force has already begun to generate innovative approaches for more targeted recruitment of students with diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the Task Force to recruit, support, and retain future leaders from historically oppressed groups in our society.

Promising Progress, Poised for Action

In the Strategic Plan’s introductory video, the Dean states: “We will also emphasize and integrate principles of social justice, inclusion, and diversity into every facet of what we do.” We applaud the incorporation of this broad commitment. However, the discussion during the launch focused primarily on advancing this commitment through increased integration of diversity and justice issues into the curriculum.

We are also interested in hearing more about the School’s specific plans to address the lack of diversity in the composition of our school, and we hope to see increased representation of communities of color and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in the future. Dean Mozaffarian mentioned the importance of Friedman alumni to the advancement of our School’s values. Like our current students, our School’s alumni are primarily white. World-class leadership from our students and alumni will require that our student body and faculty be composed of people whose lived experiences provide a complex understanding of the successes and challenges of our food system. The Dean’s continued discussion of diversity both in promotional materials and during the launch is promising, and we hope that the School’s commitment to this goal becomes clearer in the near future.

Opportunities for Improvement

The translation of these goals and objectives into measurable improvement is the next step in ensuring a more diverse and well-equipped student body, network of alumni, and faculty. It is important that the School’s efforts to advance diversity and inclusion be rooted in humility. To effect real change, the School must fully and genuinely recognize its starting point in its goal of “expand[ing] and diversify[ing] our student body to train future leaders in nutrition science, policy, and practice” (Goal X). In this vein, it is important that the School accurately present the racial and ethnic demographic data of its current student body, which will serve as an accurate baseline for monitoring future progress. We did not feel that such a presentation was provided during the launch. For example, the graduation photo on Friedman by the Numbers (Page 16 of the Strategic Plan), is suggestive of greater demographic diversity than the current composition of the School. Data on the School’s racial and ethnic makeup exist but were not provided as part of Friedman by the Numbers. These data are presented on the Tufts University Diversity Dashboard, and the numbers paint a very different picture than the image chosen for the Strategic Plan’s promotion. Given that these data are available, we are disappointed that they were not presented alongside the other relevant data about our school’s current composition. It is critically important that the School take an honest accounting of its starting composition and avoid celebrating a diverse makeup that is not yet a reality.

Responsibility & Transparency

All members of the Friedman community share responsibility in the creation of a just and inclusive learning and working environment at the School, and we recognize that this is an important and dynamic moment in the School’s history. With regard to the diversity and inclusion-related goals in the plan, we see both great potential for our school to become a social justice leader, and we also recognize the great challenges that lie ahead.

Given the complexity of addressing systems of oppression through institutional action, we would like to know how the administration plans to delegate responsibility for the implementation of these goals, and are curious about how it will engage the Friedman community in the process of setting qualitative and quantitative metrics for advancing the aims of the Strategic Plan. We recognize that this work is difficult. Significant gains will require the focused and sustained engagement of skillful individuals working within the School’s own system. As such, we advocate for the hiring of at least one dedicated professional capable of advancing the diversity and inclusion-related goals. Schools on the Boston Health Sciences Campus have similar models, in which a designated administrator is focused on such issues. Dr. Joyce Sackey, for example, is the Dean of Multicultural Affairs at the School of Medicine.

We also support the creation of more streamlined, accessible, and transparent communication networks between the administration and the broader student body during the implementation process. One example that the School could emulate comes from our neighbor, Northeastern University (NEU). NEU recently demonstrated both humility and transparency while engaging their community broadly during the University’s recent diversity and inclusion action planning process. We think Friedman would benefit from creating a similar forum for students, staff, and faculty to discuss the process of operationalizing the Strategic Plan’s goals moving forward. Countless other examples of innovative anti-racism actions by higher education institutions exist, and we look forward to seeing which method Friedman adopts as we work to help the School advance its goals.

FJL’s 2016-17 Vision

In October, the Friedman Justice League (FJL) conducted its own visioning process to set priorities for the year. Members shared their personal visions for justice in the world as well as their ideas on the role of the Friedman School and FJL in realizing these visions. The discussion was distilled into three key outcomes:

  1. A plan for internal and external priorities that includes a focus on labor in the food system, examined through educational activities, advocacy campaigns, and curriculum enhancement;
  1. A commitment to engagement with the student body in a more inclusive manner, in an effort to develop broader coalitions around our goal of integrating social justice into all spheres at Friedman; and
  1. A strategic framework for FJL’s programming and activism expressed by the diagram below:
fjlConclusion

In alignment with our own visioning process, FJL remains committed to working with the administration to build on the momentum and traction we have generated together toward social justice and diversity. We remain steadfast in our determination to hold school decision-makers accountable for the goals set forth in the plan. The School’s renewed commitment to innovation, public impact, and social justice are now more important in light of the current political climate, and Friedman is well positioned to make a significant impact within our community and beyond. Now is the time to transform these words into actions, and FJL stands at the ready to support the School in ensuring that its laudable goals around diversity, inclusion, and social justice become its practice.

*Correction, December 6, 2016: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the title of one of the Diversity Task Force members. Matthew Hast used to be the Associate Director of Student Affairs, but is now the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs. The article above has been corrected for this error. – Editors

The Friedman Justice League seeks to make our community more diverse and find ways to allow the Friedman community to better address issues of discrimination and oppression in its teachings, research, and programs. To get involved with our discussions, events, and campaigns learn more here or email caitlin.joseph@tufts.edu to be added to the listserv.

 

Opportunities for Exploring Fall in Boston

by Dani Bradley

New to Boston? Now is the time to get outside before winter arrives (and appears to never leave)!

Fall is the perfect time of year to get outside, it’s not too cold, not too hot, and the air is crisp and refreshing. Not to mention, getting outside is a great way to spend those well-deserved breaks from work or studying.

Here are some ideas for taking advantage of the beautiful weather and foliage in the greater Boston area! (Ordered in increasing distance from Tufts’ Boston campus.)

The Esplanade

The Charles River Esplanade is a public park that runs along the Charles River in downtown Boston. It offers everything from running and biking routes to kayaking and paddle boarding. There is even an outdoor exercise area between the entrances from Mass Ave and Boston University. Check out a map of the park to plan a great running route or just pick a place to have a picnic and view the foliage!

esplanade

Instagram: dani_bradley

Castle Island

In South Boston, Castle Island is a fantastic area to get outdoors and go for a walk or run. This map indicates the amenities and trails available here. And it’s only about three miles from the Tufts Boston campus!

castle-island

Emerald Necklace

Boston also offers a series of about seven parks and green spaces, which are called the ‘Emerald Necklace’. Use these maps and see if you can check off all of the amazing parks before winter comes!

emerald-necklace

Chestnut Hill Reservoir

This reservoir, located near Boston College and accessible from the end of the green line’s B and C branches, offers a fantastic one and a half mile running or walking loop. Get out there early in the morning and you will see tons of local residents and Boston College students enjoying the sunrise behind the iconic Boston skyline!

Instagram: dani_bradley

Instagram: dani_bradley

Brookline Reservoir

The Brookline Reservoir is another great option for a walking or running path. This one-mile loop is a perfect place to visit if you want to get out of the city but don’t have the transportation to get too far. It is under five miles from the Tufts Boston campus and accessible by the green D line! From here you can see the Boston skyline peeking out behind the trees from the far end of this reservoir!

Instagram: dani_bradley

Instagram: dani_bradley

Larz Anderson Park

This next park is quite different from the typical outdoorsy or green parks. While it offers all the greatness a park should (green space, picnic tables, ball parks, and walking paths), this park also houses a car museum on its premises. This park is only open between April and October, so be sure to check it out before it is too late!

larz-anderson

Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

The Arboretum, located just past Jamaica Plain, is another amazing green space offered by the city of Boston. It is a ‘living museum’ operated by Harvard University and dedicated to the study of plants. Its many walking, running, and biking paths become even more beautiful during peak foliage season in Boston.

arborium

If you are looking to get a little further from the city…

Blue Hills Reservation

Blue Hills Reservation is located in Canton, MA and is only a 20-minute drive from the Tufts Boston campus. It offers beautiful paths for walking, running and hiking, and when you make it to the top you will be rewarded with stunning views of the city. The trails are no more than five miles long and the hiking is only moderately difficult. This is a great option for a weekend outing with friends!

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Walden Pond – Concord, MA

Walden Pond is a located a bit further from the city, but it’s well worth the scenic half-hour drive if you can get your hands on a car (keep in mind there is a small parking fee)! Once you arrive you will have access to a walking path around the lake that measures to be a bit less than two miles. This park may be especially enjoyable for all of you literature geeks; you can see Henry David Thoreau’s’ cabin! And don’t worry history nerds, there’s something for you too! After you’ve spent some time at Walden Pond, take the quick five-minute drive to downtown Concord where you can walk Main Street, grab lunch, and view the historic architecture that dates back to the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Google Maps route from Walden Pond to Concord Center

Google Maps route from Walden Pond to Concord Center

These are only a few ideas for getting outside and staying active during Boston’s peak foliage time. Enjoy!

Dani Bradley is a MPH/FPAN dual degree student. She began at the School of Medicine in January 2016 and is currently in her first semester at the Friedman School. In her free time, she serves as the Volunteer Coordinator for the organization Girls on the Run and loves spending time outside.

Bringing Friedman Together: A Welcome Letter From Student Council

by John VanderHeide

At the heart of the Friedman community sits our Student Council, who is busy planning a host of opportunities to bring Friedmanites together this year. Don’t miss out on these fun events–read this letter from John VanderHeide, Student Council Co-Chair, on how you can get involved.

Getting in touch with our silly sides at Friedman Field Day on Georges Island last semester.

Getting in touch with our silly sides at Friedman Field Day, a Student Council sponsored event on Georges Island last semester.

Hello Friedman,

I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you to (or back to, as the case may be) school after what I hope was an amazing summer. To celebrate our wonderful community the Student Council will be hosting a picnic on Sunday September 11 near the docks on the Esplanade. We bring the food, you bring yourselves and your favorite lawn game or sporting activity. It will be a great way to enjoy a summer day before Boston remembers that it is supposed to be cold here and we have to go inside again.

Finding ways to bring the Friedman community together is one of the things that I enjoy most about serving on the Friedman Student Council. Last year we were able to organize 16 different social events ranging from an “Orphan Thanksgiving” for students staying in town over the short break to the end of year “Friedman Field Day” on Georges Island where we celebrated ending our studies with some fun in the sun. Looking ahead to the coming year, Social Chair Orion Kobayashi has already started putting together a list of events, big and small, that should be a ton of fun. Let him know if you have any ideas or suggestions, and I look forward to seeing you all when you need a diversion from your studies.

Building community structures is another part of the Friedman Student Council that I have found particularly rewarding. One of our roles is to serve as a connection between the student body and the administration of the school. As part of that function we organize a student feedback event each semester to ask your opinion on your experience at the school and how it is being run. In the fall we will be holding a town hall-style feedback event on Thursday, November 3–come and be opinionated. There are also many other less formal ways in which we are able to provide feedback to the administration, so never hesitate to let us know how things are going or if you need anything from us as your representatives. An easy place to reach us is at friedmanstc@gmail.com.

The last of our major functions is to provide funding to the many vibrant student organizations that operate at the Friedman School. During the 2015-2016 school year we were able to fund $3,608 in requests made by seven different student groups such as Friedman Justice League, Slow Food, and Business Link, among others. They used these funds to put on 48 additional events ranging from an Environmental Justice tour of Roxbury to five TED-style talks on new issues in nutrition. We are really excited about seeing the great ideas that you all come up with this year—hopefully we can beat last year’s student funding levels and give you all more money for cool activities.

For those of you interested helping us do this fun and important work, we are looking to fill 11 council positions this fall, including Treasurer, Curriculum and Degrees Representative, Co-Chair, and others. Being on council has been a lot of fun for me, and really great way to connect to the Friedman School. Rachel Hoh, current Student Life Representative, agrees saying, “I started in AFE last spring, halfway through the 2015-2016 academic year. Because of that, I was worried I was going to be playing catch up all semester! Being a part of Student Council has been an immersive experience, allowing me to jump right into social and academic life at the Friedman School.”

So, if anything you read here sounds interesting we will be holding informational meetings the first couple of weeks of the semester with applications due September 16, and elections on September 20-21–watch for more information in your inbox and on social media soon! Having you join us would be a pleasure.

Cheers,

John VanderHeide
Friedman Student Council Co-Chair
AFE/UEP Class of ‘18

John VanderHeide is a second-year AFE /UEP dual degree student studying food system planning and policy in the developing world. He recently spent the summer interning with the UN World Food Programme in Rwanda.