Classism is complex, no doubt. Talking about money is supposedly tactless — hey oh last weekend’s This American Life — but Americans do it all the time. And even if we didn’t, a person’s wealth or, more accurately, assumed wealth, is presumed through many a factor — where they’re from, what (who) they wear, their skin tone, their manners, their speech, their prior education, the list goes on… Many Wesleyan students feel a discomfort when confronted with issues of class; this discomfort may be born from being privileged in one’s upbringing, feeling a lack of understanding of class issues, or being keenly aware of the difficulty of living on a relatively low income in the U.S — and this is certainly not an exhaustive list of sources of discomfort in discussing class. But however complex, uncomfortable, or delicate the conversation, it’s time everyone at Wesleyan recognizes and becomes sensitive to the fact that Wes is no haven from classism.
As an introduction to wealth inequality in America here’s a video. For thoughts on class at universities, check out this recent magazine article from Yale. Also, this excellent exhibition at Skidmore (and source of the photo above) titled “Classless Society” provides some great fodder for thinking about class.
At Wesleyan, the general concept of classism is usually articulated in relation to quests for social justice on campus. For example, a search of the Argives for “classism” will return Wespeaks and pieces such as this and this. Of course, during the last couple years, issues of classism have become more specific: the elimination of Wesleyan’s “need-blind” label, calls for alumni to halt their giving, and recent USLAC efforts and protests of the conditions under which university employees work (for more on this subject, read BZOD’s great three-part series, or check out this post about the Privilege & Policy forum on classism).
Of course, experiences of class difference are not limited to these pretty well-publicized, institutional level efforts. With this in mind, the goal of this write-in was to give voice to some of the more every-day influences of class difference students experience. Many respondents felt the need to start at the beginning: