This Is Why Not, Part 2: A Guest Post from Cesar Chavez ’15 about Poverty at Wesleyan

povertyday

NOTE FROM BZODAbout a month and a half ago, we posted a piece by Cesar Chavez ’15 in which he translated a letter from the custodial staff to President Roth in which custodial staff decried their unreasonable working conditions. That letter was part 1 of 2. This letter, written by Cesar, focuses on the invisibility of poverty at Wesleyan. With that, Cesar’s post:

My name is Cesar Chavez, poor Hispanic male, age 19. I am writing this because as a poor student I can no longer stand and see how I, along with other students, am brought into a cycle of perpetual poverty by this university. It is unfair that this university has the audacity to state that there is no money for poor students and that it forces us to take loans in order to obtain a degree that in the future will become a worthless piece of paper. Likewise, I  want to break the silence around the issue of poverty. By not talking about the issue, we allow this injustice to continue. I also would like to direct this critique to poor students currently at Wesleyan. If you are reading this, I encourage you to speak up. I know the frustration and anger that you are all probably experiencing. Do not keep it inside yourselves. Make your voices heard.

Our custodians are not the only ones who have been alienated, marginalized, and oppressed at Wesleyan. Poor student have suffered these ailments as well. I, along with many other students, am a victim of indentured servitude that comes in the form of student debt. I am a poor student going to this “elite” institution so that I can pursue my academic goals and be a member of a productive society. But in my opinion, many people aren’t going to college to learn anymore; people attend college so they can land a decent job. Likewise, we live in a time when a bachelor’s degree won’t get you too far. Because we live in a global capitalist economy dominated by a global plutocracy, students in the United States have to compete even harder for jobs with students from other countries like India and China. In order to stay competitive, one needs to obtain a Masters or PhD. As a result the college and school cultures have changed in recent years to accommodate the growing corporatization. More emphasis is placed on standardized tests, corporate careers, competition, and raising tuition. Now, few people seem to have desire to learn anymore. They simply want to walk in, pass tests, get the career networks they need, walk out and land a decent job. All of this has shown me that higher education is dying and makes me question, “Why am I even bothering with college?”

On top of all this, there is the fact that people have to take out loans in this country in order to obtain a degree. I will be graduating with an estimated $12,000 in debt. If I decide to attend graduate school in the future it would another $12,000 (most likely more). Sure, $12,000 in debt is nothing compared to $30,000 or even $1,000,000 in debt, but I am poor and I have no safety nets. Aside from taking student loans, I, along with other students, am forced to sign up for the health insurance plan sponsored by the University. As some of you may know, the price of the health plan is about $800 and it is not covered by tuition. I found out about this fee by mail after I had responded to my acceptance letter to Wesleyan before my freshman year. I am spending money I do not have and that I will probably never have in my lifetime. These rising costs make me wonder what am I doing here. What assures me that when I graduate I will find a job? What assures me that when I leave college I will be able to exercise my career as a historian? Who is going to hire me? The more time I’ve spent in academia, the more it seems like a big scam to me. I could easily learn anything I want online, yet in today’s society I am forced to obtain a degree so I can obtain decent job so that I can pay the loans that I had to take out  so that I could obtain a degree.  This is a vicious cycle that is driving me deeper into poverty

I know people who didn’t go to college and did well; my paternal grandfather was one of them. He worked as an industrial worker in a tire making factory. He was diligent and hardworking. He fought to unionize his workplace and won. At the age of 60, he retired as the factory manager. He only had an elementary school education, yet he has lived a fulfilling life. His hobbies were reading history books and collecting artifacts. My father and my grandfather are the people who inspired me to be a historian. I am learning history because in the future I want teach my people the importance of knowing our history and stop the ransacking and smuggling of ancient artifacts from historical sites, a problem in my native Peru, but now I am just so discouraged to go on. What is the point of my dedication and my hard work if in the end I will still be a slave to poverty and wear the shackles of student debt?

Wesleyan claims to be a “diversity university,” but is nothing more than a valueless statement. If Wesleyan cared about diversity, it would have encouraged alumni not to built the new track on the Freeman Athletic Center and rather have that money be redirected towards the financial aid packages of poor students. If Wesleyan cared about diversity, it would guide underrepresented minorities throughout the entire college process. If Wesleyan cared about diversity, it would provide poor students with support groups so that they can have a smoother transition into college. If Wesleyan cared about diversity, it would not allow its custodians to be exploited and treated worse than cattle [BZOD NOTE: See these three posts about this issue, and Cesar’s last guest post]. If Wesleyan cared about diversity, it would promote class consciousness rather than ignore the plight of the poor who work and study in its halls. If Wesleyan cared about diversity, it would provide poor students with more paid internships so they can get ahead of their wealthier peers.  I chose the title “This is Why (Not)” because I am disgusted that this university uses the diversity label when it has gotten rid of need blind admissions, invests on building projects rather than on its poor students, and it oppresses those who work on its halls.

Related Posts:
WSA Passes USLAC Resolution in Favor of Better Working Conditions for Custodial Staff
Why Dorm Showers Aren’t Getting Cleaned: An FAQ About Wesleyan and Its Contracted Custodial Staff – [Part I, Part II, Part III]
The Argus: Community Members Rally for Worker Solidarity at Football Game
This Is Why Not: A Guest Post by Cesar Chavez ’15 about the Custodial Staff’s Situation
The Argus: Custodians Rally For Smaller Workloads, Increased Work Force
Wesleyan’s Custodial Workers Protest Working Conditions, Employee Cuts Outside Roth’s House on Lunch Break
The Middletown PressWesleyan custodians continue protests for better conditions
The Middletown PressWesleyan custodians decry conditions, cuts

  • Jack Erikson

    I don’t know why I am writing this. This comment section has long been dead and It has been 4 years, now almost 5, since my friend Cesar Wrote this. It was a dark time for him and it was a dark time for a lot of is back them. But I would like to add a follow up. I think that retrospectively Cesar, and other low income students, tried to bring out an important aspect of Wesleyan culture at the time, which after speaking with some administrators seems to have improved somewhat. There is now more of social safety net for low income students at Wes that prioritizes their needs and I think we should thank Cesar in part for that. I remember speaking to an administrator who spoke highly of him and said that after he left they wanted to make sure no other student would drop out like he did because of lack of support both economic and emotional. There is a lot of work to be done but a lot of great steps have been taken to address some of the issues mentioned in this piece. Cesar was a quest scholar and he was a great student. I have actually spoken to professors who knew him (Phillip Wagoner and Brian Stewart to name a few) and they all had a great impression of him. They were contacted by Cesar roughly a year ago and it is my pleasure to report that he is doing well. Working hard for his family and also trying to earn his B;A. in Anthropology, They were amazed at his resilience and how despite experiencing so may obstacles in his life, and at Wes, he has moved forward. I think that ultimately those of us who mistreated him and made fun or him or ignored him owe him an apology! Not that he would care but if having known him I am so happy that he left Wes and found a place that was better suited for him.

  • Anon

    Look, I get why this is posted. I’m a current student who is unfortunately having to leave the university because I can no longer pay what the university expects me to. However, what is interesting is the anger. For me, I was never, and am not, angry at the university. I don’t EXPECT them to pay my way (not saying you do just throwing my two cents in). I have three jobs and it isn’t enough. I have made the decision to leave without any resentment to the institution, I don’t know the economics, and honestly no one owes me the luxury here.
    HOWEVER, what shocked me (and why this post IS important even if there are major issues with it) is the terrible reactions I got when I told people my situation, that I was likely leaving, and how I was sad to go and thought that the university would listen a little more when I told them I was going to be forced to leave if they didn’t reconsider my aid. People ranged from subtly judgement to out right disrespectful. People even went to far as to insult my parents for not being “up to the job” to pay for this and say I was lazy and ungrateful just for saying I wish people here would understand that people who work multiple jobs and go to class here have it tough. I don’t expect not to work, but I expect some people to care enough to listen. The problem for me isn’t the university’s policies it’s the culture here and the students’ mindsets. There’s no reason when I’m saying, “I wish people here would treat the workers better because I know what it’s like to work at a place like this while being a full time student.” someone should yell at me, “I HAVE NO SYMPATHY FOR YOU. IF YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT MONEY THEN GO TO A STATE SCHOOL ON A MERIT SCHOLARSHIP.” Which well..Is exactly what I’m going to have to do..
    So for the future whether or not the university changes in policy I could care less, I just hope that those students who scream in the halls for diversity and acceptance make sure THEY are being accepting of all types of diversity and that hardships that come along with it.

  • Alum ’13

    get your story straight; either you “need to obtain a Masters or PhD”
    to get a job OR a degree is a “worthless piece of paper.” which one do
    you believe? they’re contradictory. if it’s the former, then your degree
    may be worth the debt (only you can decide that). if it’s the latter,
    then why are you going to college? giving both reasons weakens your
    argument. however, i can see the merit in both complaints, taken
    separately. if you were to decide which one it is you’re really
    complaining about, it would be easier to follow your reasoning.

    i
    can definitely see the unfairness of needing a college degree or
    masters/phd to get a job – that seems unreasonable for low income
    students who would love to get another degree but just can’t afford it. i
    agree that this is a problem, but like someone else mentioned, it’s a
    problem with higher education and capitalism in general; wesleyan is not
    some evil corporate slave driver who’s out to get you. wesleyan is
    functioning within the system (which may be evil in itself, sure). you
    should be arguing that the system is coercive, in that it practically
    requires you to enter into an agreement with a university where you will
    acquire debt. “coercion” is the key word here, not “forcing into
    perpetual poverty” or “slaves” or any of the other inflammatory language
    you used. i do not mean to invalidate your feelings – what you’re going
    through sounds terrible. you are blaming the wrong institution, though.

    i
    can also see the unfairness of a college degree not being everything
    you hoped. but again, this is either due to a problem with the function
    of colleges, in which case you should address the larger issue, or a
    problem with wesleyan in particular, in which case you may want to
    consider transferring to a school that better suits your needs. this
    argument seems less convincing to me, though, considering you are not
    trying to transfer or drop out. if you think your degree will be
    useless, that’s a valid concern, but you are not acting in a way that
    indicates you believe it is totally useless. you’re still here, aren’t
    you?

    so, while my heart goes out to you, i’m unconvinced by your
    argument. wesleyan doesn’t OWE you anything. what would be the incentive
    for them to give you more money? are you going to sue? on what grounds?
    i wish you luck, but i think you need to work on your reasoning here.
    your post comes off as whiny without much to back up your points.

  • hello?

    the university isn’t “forcing” you to do anything. if you’re paying for “a degree that in the future will become a worthless piece of paper” … why don’t you just leave? weigh the costs and benefits and make an informed decision. i sympathize with your plight, but to say that the university is “forcing” you to do anything against your will is misrepresenting the facts.

  • Disgusted Senior

    Lol the moderators deleted the perfectly reasonable post from “Is this is a troll?”

  • Alum ’12

    This is both wonderful
    and terrible to read. Wonderful because it is a conversation that needs to
    happen and terrible because I wish it didn’t need to happen. Thank you for
    speaking up. Though you are getting so much vitriol for this, you have started
    a long awaited dialogue, and I suppose I have some questions to add.

    In my time at
    Wesleyan, I was never able to understand why the cost of education was so high.
    I wanted to know where every dollar of the money I was spending was going, and
    reading the university’s annual report was not a way to build that picture. I
    understand that there are economics I do not understand, and the university
    does a poor job of communicating why education costs so much in this country,
    period. A liberal arts degree at an elite institution comes with a large
    sticker price and too high a chance of low payoff. Yet that is true of any
    liberal arts college, and the price of education is relatively uniform in the
    top 50 universities and colleges in this country. Wesleyan is one of the most
    expensive, which at $1,000 to $2,000 more than other institutions adds up. So
    to me, to accuse especially Wesleyan of placing you in indentured servitude is
    harsh, because the responsibility lies on so many more feet than that. Wesleyan
    is one in a larger, private education based system. Compare that against Europe
    where elite public universities cost a 10th of what you have to pay at
    Wesleyan. The system demands that you be in debt to get your possibly hollow
    golden ticket to a higher quality job, and honestly, that seems like a big scam
    to me too. What I would lay at the feet of Wesleyan, though it is not unique in
    this, is perhaps that its idealism on the merits of the liberal arts education
    isn’t accompanied by the real warnings that while many graduates WILL succeed
    because of the education they received, others will not make much.

    That said, I come from
    a country where pursuing your dreams isn’t actually a high priority. Getting a
    good job and supporting yourself is. Academia is incredibly competitive and it
    is not a guaranteed pay off. On many days, I am angry with myself for choosing
    to pursue my interests rather than a degree in computer science or business,
    but unlike you, I was lucky enough to have a safety net. I did come from a
    privileged background. So what worries me is that Wesleyan and universities
    like it are such gambles that they exclude people who have to make the ‘smart’
    decision, earn rather than gamble. In today’s economy, people with years of
    experience in business or other prestige fields, still go without jobs. Another
    commenter rudely, but correctly, pointed out that you are choosing a career
    that is unlikely to pay well. So rather than ask why you should work towards
    something you know is not going to pay
    well, which is easy to criticize, I think the question is, why should the realm
    of academia rather than vocational education be so much more of a gamble for
    you? In a country that does have messages on following your passions, why
    should you be kept from that? I am middle class, but I think what I cannot
    understand as a middle class person, is what it is like to worry about where my
    next meal is coming from, debt or not. Yet that kind of anxiety, it seems to
    me, weighs on people far more than we give it credit for. It keeps people from
    learning. It’s constant. So the question is, what can Wesleyan do to even the
    playing field for you?

    If your answer is only
    no debt, then it seems unrealistic. I don’t think you should be ‘grateful’ for
    what you receive, which is not an endorsement for being ungrateful. I am happy
    my education was subsidized by donations, as Wes tells us, which doesn’t mean
    that a $50,000 bill is a sweet pill to swallow. That said, I think others have
    sufficiently commented on how low it is compared to what it could be,
    considering that the bill Wes sends out adds up to almost a quarter of a
    million in educational costs over 4 years. The question is whether you leave
    Wes on the same playing fields as your classmates with $13,000 to $35,000 in
    debt. I don’t know, but I very much doubt it. You don’t have the luxury of the
    prestigious unpaid internship. For those who mentioned the Summer Experience
    Internship, it seems insufficient. Students in Cesar’s situation compete
    against middle class students who receive need based financial aid, which is
    51% of Wes or so, and the grant is not awarded based on severity of need, can
    only be won once, goes to about 20 to 25 students a year or so and excludes
    rising sophomores. It’s a fantastic grant, but I would argue there needs to be
    more.

    I don’t mean to be
    overly critical! I’m raising questions I have and I hope you continue to speak.
    It just seems to me that there is a distinction to be made between criticizing
    Wesleyan for the flaws it has, which are plenty, and its place in a bad system. I think rather than ask why you must suffer
    debt when you are poor and pursuing a poor paying degree, you need to drive home the point I feel people are
    missing and you bring up at the end, which is that Wesleyan isn’t doing enough
    to put you on even footing with your wealthier classmates. That is the true crime here to me. You may be graduating with less debt, but you may also be able to get less from Wes than richer students. What is clear is
    that Wesleyan isn’t doing enough to make your education a secure experience,
    and that is a failure you can lay on its doorstep.

  • Compassion

    The vitriol that people have responded with is in itself an object for discussion. We must ask ourselves: Why does this make people so upset? For those who claim that Cesar is ungrateful, why don’t we put ourselves in his shoes for a moment and truly consider his stressors and his ideas instead of merely reacting?

    People are clearly uncomfortable talking about this issue, as Cesar was silenced as soon as he tried to speak up. Why are we uncomfortable talking about poor students’ various situations at Wesleyan? Is every low-income student supposed to be unquestionably grateful for the scholarship and relatively low debt (…but relative to what? Is $30,000 and family support better than $12,000 and no family support?), shut up, and formulate his own career network to realize the American Dream?

  • QB ’13er here. I’m probably going to submit something to Wesleying or the Argus with my own $0.02, because my response was long and needed to be re-written, but I want to say I experienced a lot of the alienation Cesar talks about. I honestly think first-gen/low-income students would benefit from having a faculty mentor who can help us navigate this strange new place. We don’t have a safety net to fall back on or family members who can give advice about a place they’ve never been to. I experienced a lot of financial worry all throughout my years at Wes that other students (wealthier students) didn’t have to deal with. I often got a phone call from home asking me to send money I earned back to them to help pay this bill or get groceries for the month, or whatever, because my family just didn’t have many other options, and if one of us fell behind, we pretty much all did as we struggled to support each other. I also fretted during breaks about having enough to eat (summer was worst) and how I was going to be able to pay for textbooks and such at the start of the semester AND pay my regular bills.

    I finally had a faculty member my senior year, which I found to be really useful and I hope that QuestBridge and other low-income/first-generation students can also have that resource, preferably earlier than I got it. My mentor helped me with figuring out things like what to look for in grad school programs, gave me space to talk about my frustrations over class issues with someone who has gone through the same thing and made it, and in general gave me advice I couldn’t really ask anyone else about. My Class Dean couldn’t provide the amount of guidance I needed, and I have no sense of how to feel out a professor who might be sympathetic and able to give me the kind of advice I needed and understood the difficulties inherent in being poor.

    I think this is a discussion worth having, and one that I was trying to bring out in the open in my last year at Wes. Preferably without everyone picking at the grammar and spelling of someone whom I suspect is an ESL student.

    ETA: Shauna Pratt/Shira Gaudet. If anyone wants to talk more privately, my email is spratt.

  • Student ’15

    I am shocked to see what venom several commenters have reacted with. What Cesar has presented is a combination of his own experience and social commentary. While readers in similar situations may not be in agreement with what he says, I think that we can all appreciate the opening of a dialogue on socioeconomic status as a hidden issue at Wesleyan. Fellow low-income students, let’s not tear Cesar apart for refusing to play the Grateful Poor Recipient, but let’s add to this dialogue our own experiences and considerations in patient, calm manners.

  • Fed up with your bullshit

    You shouldn’t have capitalized the H in “Hispanic” as it isn’t a proper noun. It’s a fucking adjective for gods sake. But about your article, go to hell.

  • Disgusted Senior

    Cesar, I don’t know where to start. This is pathetic. Where do I begin?

    As a student on a great deal of financial aid who works 2 on-campus jobs, your sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude disgust me. And as a fellow Wesleyan student, your god-awful writing abilities and lack of basic reasoning skills appall me.

    You are not “brought into a cycle of perpetual poverty” by Wesleyan. You — as I am — are EXTREMELY fortunate to have been provided the resources to attend this school. It’s not unfair for the university to have the “audacity” to state there is no money for poor students — THERE ACTUALLY IS NOT MONEY FOR ADDITIONAL AID!

    You, as an adult, chose to come here. You are not in fucking “indentured servitude”. Tons of students on campus without familial connections — myself included — have landed amazing, high-paying jobs and internships through our work ethic, intelligence, and resourcefulness. You don’t need an advanced degree to make it.

    I will also be graduating with debt, Cesar. Did you know that the average member of the class of 2013 (nationwide) graduated with over $35,000 in debt? And do you know how much Wesleyan cap’s loans at as part of a financial aid package for my class and yours? Around $13,000. I will be graduating with over $13,000 in debt and am grateful that I don’t have anymore.

    The idea of going to graduate school seems anathema to you, yet your state your desire to “exercise [your] career as a historian”. I have never heard of a historian without an advanced degree. How were you planning on pulling that one off, even if you the oppressive slave master that is the University administration didn’t ask you to pay a single cent? You need to get a grip on reality, buddy.

    If you can get everything you want to learn online, and are convinced you can’t get a job after graduation, why are you here in the first place? If your degree is a “worthless piece of paper”, then seriously Cesar, WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU HERE?

    You continuously reference your “dedication” and “hard work” that will leave you in “the shackles of student debt” but you clearly have never been to the career resource center, utilized Wesleyan’s vast alumni network, or I don’t know, majored in something more marketable like computer science, mathematics, or economics.

    Any semblance of credibility you may have had is quickly erased by your insistence on using ridiculous hyperbole and slavery metaphors. Wesleyan treats its custodians “worse than cattle”? Really? Wesleyan needs to provide paid internships to poor students to “get ahead” of their wealthier peers? How would Wesleyan go about handing out paid internships and why would it be in their interest to see one group of students succeed over another?

    If you are so worried about employment, then honestly — all snark aside — I would ask the staff at the Argus and Wesleying to pull down every poorly-written, whiney article you’ve posted. Seriously — any employer who will pay you enough to pay off that whopping $12,000 in debt (sarcasm) is going to Google you and will be immediately turned off by your lack of reasoning skills and entitled, misinformed attitude.

    • BZOD

      “I will also be graduating with debt, Cesar. Did you know that the average member of the class of 2013 (nationwide) graduated with over $35,000 in debt? And do you know how much Wesleyan cap’s loans at as part of a financial aid package for my class and yours? Around $13,000. I will be graduating with over $13,000 in debt and am grateful that I don’t have anymore.”

      Curious: what’s your source for this?

      Also, Wesleyan does offer paid internships in a sense. The Summer Experience Grant (mentioned in the post below) is a $4,000 grant available only to students on financial aid to do an unpaid or low-paid internship of their choice.

  • Anon ’15

    Hey Cesar,

    I think you make a lot of good points. I especially agree that there needs to be more discussion and more awareness of classism among students, faculty, and the administration. Wesleyan should provide more of a support network for students in your situation or similar situations.

    However, I think that many of the problems you bring up don’t have easy or obvious solutions. For example, Wesleyan should provide more paid internships to poor students? Well, most internships just don’t pay, and that is really not Wesleyan’s fault. They do offer a “Summer Experience Grant” to students on financial aid, but they don’t have enough money to give an unlimited number of grants for unpaid internships.

    You may also be right that financially, the piece of paper you get from Wesleyan is not worth the cost, and that is very sad. However, I think that is a larger problem with U.S. higher education that the government or society should be tackling, and it’s hardly Wesleyan’s fault.

    Finally, you say that few people here have a desire to learn. I really hope that’s not true! That certainly is not my attitude, and I would like to give others the benefit of the doubt too. Anyway, as long as that’s not your attitude (which it doesn’t seem to me), you can absolutely find ways to get more out of your Wesleyan education than the internet in terms of what you learn – even if it doesn’t pay off financially. Those are separate issues.

    In the end though, I do sympathize with how difficult it is to keep faith that our education is “worth it,” and I would support any projects you propose to offer more support to students in need or to raise class awareness. I hope that you will focus on productive solutions rather making general criticisms.

    Best of luck!

  • Alum ’13

    I agree that class is an issue that is not explored enough by the university. As someone whose family is solidly middle class (which at this point means living paycheck to paycheck), I graduated with $60k in debt. In looking at graduate school, I am determined to try not to accrue much more debt because of the burden placed on me already.

    Having said all this, I fear posts like this do more harm than good. Yes, $12,000 in debt is nerve-wracking to think about, though, as you said, nothing in comparison to what others graduate with. I think that in this one case, framing this conversation as poor people vs. rich people is horribly detrimental. The average in-debtedness of a Wesleyan student after graduation was about $30k last time I checked, and so it is not as if only poor students are being affected by the student loan debt crisis. in fact, I would make the assertion that middle class students are more likely to have higher than average in-debtedness than poor or rich students due to how Wesleyan calculates need.

    Student loan debt is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed. Class issues at Wesleyan are DEFINITELY an issue that needs to be addressed. However, this post wastes so much opportunity to actually addressing these issues meaningfully.

    • Cesar A. Chavez

      All I am trying to do is get people to think about these issues, specially those who have been affected by the recent university policies. I cannot speak from a point of view I do not quite fully understand, for this reason I didn’t bring up the struggle that middle class students are going through in this university. I am not downplaying it, but I cannot speak about it because I am not a middle class student. Likewise as I said in the beginning of my post, the post is directed to poor students who are struggling at Wesleyan in silence and who have almost no institutional support and in some cases the support of their peer because they can’t relate to them. I am among them. I am tired of seeing kids like me depressed and anxious because not only can they not fit in this institution but also because they don’t get the aid they need. Those who read this post and do not identify with what I have mentioned are welcome to criticize it. After all I wrote this post so that students, and alums, can start thinking about these issues. Also the wealth gap in this country is starting to get wider, we cannot longer ignore the class struggles that exist in this country and at Wesleyan.

  • ALUM PARENT

    No one is forcing you to attend college, and an undergrad loan obligation of $12,000 is very low. You state that a Wesleyan degree s a worthless piece of paper? Then why are you pursuing it? What I get from your post is that you are ill-informed, and you are not taking advantage of on-campus resources such as the career center, as well as getting guidance from your professors and class dean. You are an adult now and you can create a robust plan that will bring you success. I hope you do so.

  • ’13 alum

    I graduated from Wesleyan this past May with about $15,000 worth of student loan debt. During my time at Wesleyan, the university’s financial aid package covered a good portion of the total cost of tuition. As a first-generation college graduate and person of color whose parents and grandparents (and perhaps any other ancestor preceding these generations) never went to school even beyond elementary school (and who immigrated to this country with hardly anything, don’t speak English, and worked laborious jobs to save enough for my Wes education), I have been extremely grateful and happy for what Wesleyan has provided me. And Cesar, find your lack of gratitude, your self-pity, and your sense of entitlement to be extremely displeasing.

    You are complaining about your $12,000 of student debt and your lack of a safety net. I want you to take a good look at where you are in your life and rid yourself of the self-pity you place on yourself because you find the need to state you are a “poor Hispanic male, age 19.” You already have SO MUCH privilege just by going to Wesleyan alone.

    I am stunned by your strong sense of entitlement from the university, which I assume is already supporting you with a substantial financial aid package making their education at Wesleyan possible. The university is already doing as much as they can with the amount of money they have allotted for financial aid in their budget. Sure, it would have been nice to not stress so much about my finances and my job prospects back at Wes like you are currently, but I find your expectations of the university in helping to finance your education EVEN MORE than they already are to be unreasonable, especially given that everyone is really in the same boat as you are. You can’t expect a free-ride just because you see yourself as deserving more because you “have less.”

    Money has always been tight in my family, so while I was at Wesleyan, I made sure to do things that would help me get a good job so that after graduation, I can support my parents a little, pay off my student loans, and build my new life. Instead of writing a Wesleying post to give me more money because “I am a poor student,” I busted my ass while at Wes, working constantly hoping that it would pay off in the end. I didn’t have health insurance either, so I spent the first 2 years at Wesleyan on their insurance plan before I got my own insurance that I paid for monthly on my own dime to save money.

    It worked out. I was gainfully employed with a job I enjoy, living in a new city, and supporting my parents by paying for some of their utility bills. Furthermore, I expect to pay off all $15,000 of my student loans in about a year and a half.

    If you start planning and working towards what you know will enable the life you want, which seems to be a debt-free life in which you can pursue your passion for history, then you must change the way you think about the role of the university in your life. A lot of what I have written may sound harsh, but I tell you this with the most honesty because I want you to remember that you are truly in a special place that is Wesleyan. One of the hardest things about being a lower-income student at a place like Wesleyan is feeling like people won’t understand why you and your family do and don’t do certain things that and feeling like you have to explain certain decisions you make (anything as small as, “I can’t go to Tandoor tonight because I need to save money.”). You just have to find the right people who make you feel comfortable being who you are, so that you can reconcile the antagonism you feel towards Wesleyan and academia in general.

    Just remember to be grateful for what you already have (which is so much), and start planning. Like crazy.

    • Cesar A. Chavez

      So with all respect what you are telling me is to grateful to be in debt? You may have made it in your time but the times we live in are very different. Not everyone succeeds with a college degree these days. My sister had to wait 2 years working at Publix to make a living for me and my family. Then she went to college got her degree in biology but at a hefty price ended with $60,000. She had difficulty finding a job and in the course of 3 years she had 5 jobs all of them minimum wage. She had the privilege of getting a degree and she is grateful for that, but she isn’t grateful tot he fact that she is in debt and that she has been struggling to pay up what she owes. Also we are immigrants, my parents have college degrees from universities in Peru. You think we wanted to be poor. My parents tried to validate their degrees but couldn’t because they had to start working in order to sustain my family. My family is deep in poverty, as of now my father is working as janitor even thou he has a degree in business administration, and my mother due to her depression has been unemployed. Yeah I am privileged to be at Wesleyan, but I do not have the means and connections to make my experience here an affordable one. Likewise, it is very difficult for me to discuss these topics with my peers because some of them do not understand what it is like to be in this situation. Before you judge me understand that not everyone in this intuition is on the same situation, not everyone gets the same support, and not everyone is equal. Glad Wesleyan worked for you but don’t assume it work’s for everyone the same way.

      • Anon

        “The times we live in are very different.”
        “Not everyone succeeds with a college degree these days.”

        Good point, Ceasar–I’m sure things were very different way back in the good ol’ days when “’13 Alum” graduated.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facepalm

      • huh

        When did the Alum accuse you of wanting to be poor? Ze was sympathizing with you, but also calling you out on your crazy sense of entitlement…

  • Anon Alum

    Wesleyan should place a greater emphasis on the volunteer EMT training program so they can get some more Wahmbulance drivers around campus.

    It’s not Wesleyan’s job to hold your hand throughout college. They have resources for you to go find a paid internship, there’s an entire building for it. You’re in a place full of opportunities, it’s your job to find them.

    I suggest you pay attention more in class, learn how to write, and bust your ass studying what you love.

  • Is this a troll?

    God, there are so many things wrong with this article I don’t know where to begin. Learning to write (or at least having someone proofread your sorry excuse for an essay) would do your half-baked and illogical arguments a world of good, though.

  • alum

    I agree on almost everything you said. You said it well, and you spoke the truth.

    My only qualm is about the building projects on campus. The track actually did need to be replaced (was becoming more expensive to maintain/keep safe to use the old one vs. build a new one) and Wesleyan cancelled a $160 million science center a few years ago, in addition to cancelling turning the old squash building into a museum (also too expensive). Yes, Wesleyan needs to do more to support its students, but the lack of support is not because money is being spent on building projects. In fact, Wesleyan has deferred $42 million of needed repairs over the last 10 years.

    • Samantha O’Brien

      Agreed––a fine article on the whole. I would also like to point out that some of those deferred repairs ARE currently having a negative impact on students––students of all backgrounds, not just the kids on the track team. Take the water situation in lo-rise: a lack of hot (or, occasionally, any) water affects ALL students who live in that housing.

      • Anon

        cold showers are unpleasant… $12,000 of debt is more unpleasant