Northeastern faces ire about more than ICE
Kudos to the students at Northeastern University who recently marched to try to convince the school to dump its internship contract with ICE. Two thousand fellow petitioners agreed with their stance. They don’t believe the school’s standards and values are in alignment with an agency whose actions, under the heartless dictates of President Trump, coupled with the harsh directives of AG Jeff Sessions, have taken on a Gestapo-like brutishness. I would like to believe ICE’s tactics are also not in line with America’s values.
The ICE situation is not the only issue Northeastern currently faces. Others closer to home fester just below the surface.
Community advocates are watching closely how the university treats its longtime minority businesses on campus amid the school’s expansion activities.
And especially stunning is the move by Northeastern to evict the renowned and widely respected African-American Master Artists-in-Residence Program (or AAMARP as it is better known) — sending shock waves throughout the minority artists community and the community at large.
The issue has come to the attention of Mayor Marty Walsh, state Sen. Nick Collins and City Councilor Kim Janey, who represents the district where Northeastern sits, chairs the Council’s committee on Arts, Culture and Special Events and is a strong proponent for expanding business opportunities in the city for women and minorities.
For minority businesses, getting a foot in the door has always been and continues to be a struggle. And far too few are begrudgingly deemed able to “make the grade,” even after jumping through hoops to get the necessary collateral to do business in the first place. Some companies and institutions have the unmitigated gall to consider the inclusion of minority companies an “added cost” of doing business. I say consider it making up for years of exclusion.
Bottom line is that if you are a minority business or institution and you survive for 30, 40 or 50 years in service, you must be doing something right. But minority businesses continue to grapple with what I will call the “expendability” factor, which is akin to the “last hired, first fired” syndrome, an all-too prevalent practice in the minority workforce.
On the surface, it seems Northeastern does better than most institutions of higher learning in reaching out to be more inclusive, but some say not by much. As neighbors and abutters to a mostly majority minority community, there is a perpetual tug of war between expanding student housing in the community, which adds to NU’s bottom line, and the need for more affordable housing in the community.
To its credit, Northeastern does house programs that support community service and enhanced learning. AAMARP is one of the more recognizable nationally and internationally. There really isn’t a program quite like it that supports African-American artists and benefits Northeastern and Boston as a whole by showcasing our world class African-American creative community.
Before AAMARP got its eviction notice, the group was planning its 40th anniversary celebration, which would have no doubt garnered Northeastern high praise for its decades-long sponsorship. Reasons given for the eviction range from safety concerns to the desire to use the building for other purposes. An alternate location was not offered to house the program. So, in essence, the program will be homeless. That is unacceptable after a 40-year mutually beneficial relationship and, in my opinion, inconsistent with the values that Northeastern espouses.
At a time when Roxbury is celebrating the first anniversary of its designation as a cultural district, neither our businesses nor our artists on Northeastern’s campus should be considered expendable.
HOT TOPIC: Northeastern students and community activists protest the school’s involvement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.