A Step into the Unknown Commencement at Tufts University


Conversations around diversity and the concept of political correctness heavily influenced Tufts in the 1990s. The Rodney King beating in 1991 and the Los Angeles riots following the verdict acquitting the officers in involved in the spring of 1992 shocked the nation, bringing the issue of racism to prominence, and spurred some Tufts students to take action. An article in the 1993 Commencement issue of the Tufts Daily noted that a group of students handed out purple armbands at the 1992 Commencement to raise awareness but had been met with resistance by some who felt that a celebration wasn't a place for such activism.

Tufts' response to the issue of homophobia and treatment of the university's gay, lesbian and bisexual students was also a prominent concern on campus. Wendell Phillips Award Sharon Wachsler was profiled in the 1992 Commencement issue of the Tufts Daily. A prominent campus activist, a lesbian, and a fervent supporter of the Tufts Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community, Wachsler had planned to deliver a speech about unity through diversity, but changed her plans upon learning that President Mayer had received ten letters objecting to her selection as speaker. In the face of what she perceived as lack of support from the administration, Wachsler instead announced her intention to speak on survival and on exposing the "behind the scenes" activities of those in power. The 1993 Commencement issue of the Daily confirms that Wachsler did speak on homophobia in the administration and was met with some disapproval.