Tomas Garcia was elected as the next TCU president on April 27 with a definitive 78% of the vote, promising to rejuvenate Tufts in both body and mind. Central to his campaign were pledges to improve campus facilities and to promote a wider sense of community and school pride. In an interview with the Observer, Garcia spoke about his upbringing, the campaign, his presidential priorities, and his vision for the future. Still a little shocked from the win, the rising senior was deeply humble. Even when asked what his superpower ability might be, he replied cautiously: “Well, no abusive powers.”
What is your number one priority for Tufts right now?
I think it’s the expansion of facilities. I think that right now Tufts is a first-rate institution with third-rate facilities. I think that without adequate social spaces, adequate academic spaces, and adequate residential spaces, it’s very hard as a student body to come together. Student groups need to find areas in which to express themselves. I see people practicing their group performances in the lobby, and I think that’s terrible. This university needs to make facilities its number one priority.
What problem bothers you most about Tufts?
What bothers me the most is this idea that right now we’re 5,000 people who just happen to go the same school together. I think there’s a lack of school pride that you see at other schools like Duke, for example. And what I really want to see is the student body come together and unite.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Portland, Oregon. Both my parents are originally from Argentina. I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household. It’s taught me what it’s like to belong to multiple communities, and I have to balance those influences. I know what it’s like to be discriminated against. By being brought up in different communities, I have the background to reach out to different groups on campus, because I know that even if I’m not a member of your group, I can still empathize with your point of view.
What are your hopes for life after Tufts?
In the short term, I’m looking toward finance as an option. This upcoming summer I’ll be interning as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. Long term I’d ultimately like to go into a career in politics, something in public service. But I’m trying to keep my options open.
Only 31% of the student body voted. What do you think about the campaign process and what should be done to get students more involved in campus elections and affairs?
I think that’s a year-long process. The campus as a whole won’t turn out to vote unless the campus as a whole feels some sort of investment in the future, and I think that over the past few years the Senate as an institution has been slipping a little bit in the eyes of the student body [in terms of] communicating accurately and actively. Having served on the Senate for the past two years, I can say that the Senate does have the student body’s issues at heart, but a lot of the time that doesn’t come through. So I really think the Senate needs to remake itself as an institution.
What has been your favorite moment at Tufts?
I would have to say the night that I was elected. I think that night [saw] many people’s hard work came to fruition. It was such an exciting moment. I’m still not sure if I really deserve it, but it’s just the fact that I had such a dedicated campaign team who all believed in me. It was the culmination of all that hard work in one moment—and a really, really non-flattering photograph on the front page of the Tufts Daily.
Would you say that Tufts has become stricter over the years in terms of its drug, alcohol, and safety policies?
I think that yes, the alcohol policy has been shifted toward a more disciplinary focus instead of a more mentorship focus and that’s something that I want to try to work on next year—bringing education back to these alcohol and drug policies. I think that drinking at Tufts is something that is commonly pushed behind closed doors and as a result it becomes even more dangerous. I’d really like to see Tufts adopt a system of RAs where RAs serve more as mentors than disciplinary figures. It’s a system that has been adopted at several liberal arts colleges across the United States with great success. I think it’s a real shame that we pride ourselves on being such a forward-thinking institution and still have this issue where to solve drug and alcohol issues, we take a disciplinary approach instead of an educational approach.
What do you think of Bacow’s decision to cancel NQR?
I mean, honestly, as a student, it was an outrage. It’s a time-honored Tufts tradition and I’m really sad. I think you can have a tradition such as NQR without almost immediately life-threatening emergencies as long as the students are properly taught beforehand about safe drinking. I’m very excited to see what the student groups have come up to replace it with next year..
What have you done as chair of the TCU Outreach Committee to get the Senate more involved in the lives of students?
I feel like one of the best events that the Student Outreach Committee put on was the Leadership Dinner in the fall. That’s where all of the leaders of all of the clubs and organizations on campus are invited together to sit down and interact. A big thing we did this year that I was personally in charge of was putting the Weekly Senate Bulletin in the Tufts Daily. In our fall survey, we already had over 800 people saying that had seen our advertising. Next year I’d like to see a weekly electronic newsletter brought to the student body to serve as a way to get feedback and let students know about opportunities and events on campus.
Moving to a more personal note, what would your superhero ability be?
Mind control, time control, that’d probably be pretty good—or rewind, but no abusive powers.
What’s the last book that you read outside of class?
It’s called Born on a Blue Day [by Daniel Tammet]. It’s a book about an autistic savant. It was really interesting to get exposed to a completely different manner of intelligence, and it’s astonishing to see how he lived his life.
What’s your overall vision for Tufts next year?
I want to make sure that the undergraduate student body is the top priority in the eyes of the new administration, to really make sure the administration is working for us, and to make sure that every student on the Tufts campus has a, hopefully positive, meaningful change in their day-to-day lives as a result of the Senate doing something. And in addition, [I want to make sure] that students recognize what the Senate has done and make it a two-way street. So really it’s all about transparency and communication.