Protect the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy legacy and reputation
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Dear Fletcher Administration, Fletcher Board of Advisors, President Monaco, and Trustees of Tufts College,
It is with grave concern that we write to you today. This letter represents a consensus among both alumni and current students. We take issue with the new branding of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the creation of the new MGA degree. The manner in which these radical changes came about are worth discussing in detail. The breach of trust by the Fletcher administration, caused by a lack of transparency and consultation with either alumni or current students in many of the important decisions made throughout 2020, must be addressed with a depth and seriousness that is beyond the scope of this letter. Acknowledging that, we would like to flag our key concerns with regard to the new school name, new school branding, and new potentially part-time, lower-standard, shortened degree program.
The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy has been a well-respected and recognized name the world over since its inception in 1933. The name conveys not only the gravitas of what happens within the school’s walls, but also the impact that the alumni go on to have in international affairs. The name also conveys clearly the school’s proud and ongoing tradition of training generation upon generation of diplomats. While the alumni go on to varied careers, at its core, the Fletcher School is a school of diplomacy –a skillset that is valuable in any field.
The new name conveys nothing meaningful at all beyond marketing buzz words that will fade with time. There is no reason that the school name should be reduced to something other than a proper noun worthy of a capital letter. Even the choice of font is questionable. The new font is more suited to a Bay Area start-up than one of the world’s greatest schools of international relations. The new name, “fletcher, The Graduate School of Global Affairs, Tufts University” sounds infantile. Anyone in our field knows that it is a graduate school. The designation should specify just what kind of school we are, and traditionally, that has been one of law and diplomacy. While the Fletcher School might not be a law school, every graduate from the MALD program is able to read a treaty and discuss the finer points of the United Nations Charter with intelligence and meaning, and the title furthermore reinforces the reputation of our LL.M. program, which is unique among those of our peer competitors. Every MALD graduate leaves the School able to understand the principles of international law that form the foundation of our international system.
The new branding is a slapdash erasure of all the distinction that came with the Fletcher School’s legacy. The Fletcher forte is distinctive, elegant, and timeless. Students and alumni travel the world over proudly carrying Fletcher flags as they explore and assist it. The seal that has replaced it has no such recognition, respect, or visual impact, other than to have a blue background and font that make it easily confused with the Facebook logo. The scales of justice within it are misleading for a school that now claims to want to distance itself from confusion over being a law school. There is a sword within the scales of justice that seems to stab “Pax” in the heart. That surely sends the wrong message. Moreover, there is a subliminal cross right at the centre of the seal which is puzzling bearing in mind the multifaith and multicultural community that makes up the Fletcher family. The seal is a failure. The all-blue color scheme is a strange choice after decades of orange. Not only is it not distinctive, it erases all ties with the community and tradition that came before. This can serve no useful purpose. Even the choice of images for the School’s marketing and communications materials is egregious. Why are cheap stock photos being used instead of real photos of students and alumni? Why are the students in the featured photo all young, thin, and clearly North American? Why is there a young woman at the centre of the featured school photo in a subtly sexualized belly shirt tied up to expose her navel? This imagery is not representative of the actual student body or alumni community who come from all corners of the world, with all manners of dress, and with diverse ages and body types. The photos that have been chosen are actually offensive.
We ask that this rebrand be reversed immediately. If a new branding package must be created for the School, then it must be created with widespread, meaningful consultation with both current students and alumni. The branding and imagery of the School has an impact on all of us as donors and lifelong stakeholders. We have all invested significant amounts of time and money into the School and deserve to have our voices heard. As it stands, many alumni are suggesting a boycott of any fundraising calls until we are treated with more respect and our degrees are not devalued by rash and secretive decisions by the School administration. Lest we forget, #GivingTuesday is right around the corner.
The creation of the new MGA degree is just the culmination of a troubling trend of dismantling academic standards at the Fletcher School. This new degree program is not only unnecessary, it is damaging to the School’s community and reputation. This part-time optional, shortened degree, with no meaningful benchmark for achievement on par with the MALD program (and which it clearly competes with in a race to the academic-cost bottom), is the culmination of a dangerous trend that devalues the rest of the Fletcher degree programs along with it. From an academic standpoint, the light course load, elimination of both a thesis and a capstone, and no language requirements, mean that this new degree does not adequately prepare students for the careers that Fletcher alumni typically pursue. The MGA simply does not set students up for success in some of the world’s most challenging and important careers. The short-term and hybrid aspects have a negative impact on the student body and degrades the Fletcher experience. Short-term students, no matter how well-intentioned, will not be as immersed and invested in the Fletcher community as their full-term peers. Moreover, Boston is not even the right ecosystem for such an academic program. In cities that are centers of international influence and activity like Washington, Paris, London, New Delhi, Nairobi, or Singapore, offering a part-time program to allow busy professionals to pursue an education and contribute to the campus community makes sense. Boston is an academic town, where this model does not make sense.
The new MGA degree is completely unnecessary, seeing as how the Fletcher School already has several degree options to cater to different stages of one’s career, including the 1-year mid-career MA, all while maintaining rigorous academic standards. For those who are unable to step away from their careers, they can pursue a GMAP. For those who want to combine their Fletcher MALD with a law or medical degree, there are options. The Fletcher School had never suffered from a lack of flexibility.
The new MGA degree confuses what it means to graduate from the Fletcher School for potential employers and colleagues. Whereas the MALD is a well-known standard of thorough academic training, practical skills like a language, and high standards like the thesis and/or capstone, the MGA is none of these things. When someone says that they graduated from the Fletcher School in the future, that will become a meaningless statement that demands scrutiny rather than commanding respect.
If the School requires additional funding, then a push for fundraising or raising enrolment in existing programs should be pursued in a responsible way. We ask that the new MGA program be scrapped in favor of investing further in the School’s existing offerings to make them even more valuable to students and marketable to prospective employers.
We hope that you will take our concerns seriously and accept our recommendations so that we the undersigned can continue to proudly and materially support the school in the years to come.
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