Tag Archives: classism

why is this school literally macklemore

I remember the first full-price clothing item I ever bought. No discounts. No coupon. It was my first semester at Wesleyan, and I had to get a black dress for my WesWinds concert. My mom and I had gone to Zara to check their overwhelmingly black aesthetic, and I found a black dress with a lace top. I thought it was the perfect dress until I checked the price tag. $50. We both knew that we would have to wait forever for that dress to go on sale, and I didn’t own an appropriate dress for my concert, which was quickly approaching.

My mom gave me a look and said hadi, which translates into a bunch of things in English. It can mean come on, let’s, but in this situation, it meant, we’re going to ignore the price because this is a pretty dress. Screw it, let’s buy it. It also meant, let’s do this quickly before my wallet changes its mind.

For most of my life, I’ve been much more accustomed to hand-me-downs and clearance rack finds than full-price fashions and expensive trends. Growing up, my favorite outfit was a sequined denim jumpsuit that had been passed down to me. This was, in retrospect, absolutely ridiculous and marginally over-the-top for a pre-teen to wear, but it was special to me. Our hand-me-down system was cross-continental: my friend’s mom would pass down her daughter’s clothes to me, where I would get some use out of it, and then those clothes were packed away to be brought to my cousins in Turkey, where the cascade of hand-me-downs began again: starting with one of the middle cousins, to the one slightly younger, to the second-cousin-twice-removed-or-what-we-just-call-cousin down the line. As long as it was in wearable condition, it was passed down.

Upon one of my visits back home, I saw one of my cousins wearing a dress that I remember wearing in elementary school: white, with some red, orange, and yellow flowers scattered along the hem and waistline. It was one of my favorite dresses; now, it had been passed down two bodies before reaching my cousin’s closet.

The topic of clothing within a low-income family is complex: a web of societal standards of dress combined with financial barriers. I had learned quickly that my mom and I could not afford regular-priced clothing, so our trips to the Gap consisted of darting toward the sale section, calculating sales tax on each item, never crossing the line between clearance and regular-priced, avoiding lusting over a dress that we couldn’t afford. My wardrobe’s guiding logic was out of season: we bought summer clothes in the winter when it went on sale and winter clothes at the beginning of summer, estimating how much I would grow in the meantime. On the few occasions my mom and I went through the in-season section, we would take a mental note on the clothes we would wait to go on clearance, eventually buying them a few months later. This was our process; we waited for coupons, for credit card rewards, for the hand-me-downs supplementing my needs in the meantime.

So Apparently Wesleyan is “Economically Diverse”

Paying tuition never looked so bucolic

Paying tuition never looked so bucolic

Please put your iPhone back in your Patagonia sweatshirt pocket for a second. Apparently it’s time to rethink the idea that the Wesleyan student body is entirely made up of students from upper-class families, at least according to new data from the New York Times. In conjunction with an article on colleges recruiting from an increasingly diverse set of economic backgrounds, the Times has published a chart comparing the economic diversity of various schools. And Wesleyan has come out at number 13 on the list.

The chart ranks colleges according to a College Access Index, which is based on the percent of the past few freshman classes who came from low-income families (measured by the share receiving a Pell grant) and on the net price of attendance for low- and middle-income families. The data states that 18% of freshman classes arriving 2012-14 have received Pell grants, and that the average cost for low- and middle-income students is $8,700 a year. This gives Wesleyan a College Access Ranking of 1.5, putting us below Amherst and above Williams, for reference.

Follow-up: Classism at Wesleyan

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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).

1002588_10151723365390509_1599490200_nOf 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:

Privilege & Policy at Wes, Part I

PP@WES

Exactly a year ago, the Diversity University forum was held to address diversity at Wesleyan in light of hateful comments on the ACB, the use of race in Public Safety Reports, and allegations of unnecessary use of force by Public Safety. The conversation also touched on many other points and became a three hour-long panel/discussion with over 400 students, faculty, and staff in attendance.

These were a few of the most salient points from the forum, summed up by pyrotechnics in his post from last year:

  • We’ve got problems. Big, scary institutional and individual problems and shortcomings. We all do. Every one of us.
  • There are a lot of people who really give a shit. Not only was this evident in attendance, but in the words, actions, and thoughts of many. This carries from those brave students who shared their own horrifying stories all the way to President Roth at the helm of the University, who remarked: “I take this very seriously. It’s so corrosive. It undermines the very fabric of this university. This can’t go on. … If we have screwed up, we will fix it. What you’re describing to me wrecks the University’s mission.”
  • Dialogue is important, and this kind of forum needs to happen regularly, but actions speak louder than words. Right now, there is a real limit to the trust that our community affords itself and the administration to actually address these issues. Ostensible, and more importantly, tangible progress in institutionally healing our community is necessary to shore up that lack of trust.

The dialogue continued again this year with the Privilege and Policy forums, which happened over a five part series in the span of a month. Student Body President Nicole Updegrove ‘14 organized the series, and 1-4 Wesleyan students facilitated each talk. The goals were to more thoroughly address diversity issues, for a wide range of students to participate, and to explore potential policy solutions. The conclusive points from this series were similar to those of the Diversity University forum from last year, namely that these issues are incredibly complex and important, that they affect everyone, and thusly, we need to talk about them.

Write-in #2: Classism @ Wesleyan

need-blind-stays

Though all of you are likely familiar with the need-blind debate last year and campus conversations full of blatant classism surrounding the subject, you may or may not have seriously examined how this classism runs rampant through Wesleyan University and pervades the experiences of its student body and administration.

We implore you to answer this question:

Have you ever experienced classism at Wes? Tell us about it.

Here’s the form. Some questions after the jump to get you thinking: 

Hermes Seeks Submissions (Again)

The Hermes magazine is looking for prose, poems, images and short personal stories. This writing should pertain to problems of “racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transophobia, and unrecognized privilege at Wesleyan.” Virgil Taylor ’15 writes:

The Hermes is calling for short submissions responding to problems of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and unrecognized privilege at Wesleyan. The impetus for this focus is in response to the sign posted in Usdan after the Holi festival last Friday.

Hermes is also calling for submissions now because it is the time to act and to respond to the Wesleyan administrations’ longstanding lack of progress in addressing our campus’s problems.

This topic is important & difficult, the collective encourages everyone who feels something say something. To speak out is powerful and speaking together can be even more powerful.

Contact: wesleyanhermes(at)gmail(dot)com
Deadline: Monday, May 7, at high noon