On Thursday afternoon the “We’re Not Here to Say Thank You” campaign drew nearly 70 members of the student body, staff, and faculty into the Bryn Mawr room of the Dining Center to discuss issues observed on campus related to class.
Initially borne out of an article published in Swarthmore’s Daily Gazette which discussed class and financial aid on college campuses, the mission of the “We’re Not Here to Say Thank You” campaign is to create more dialogue surrounding financial aid at Haverford College. The article, published roughly a month ago, contained a paragraph that urged students on financial aid at elite institutions to, in essence, thank their more well-off peers for paying full tuition and in turn allowing them to attend their school.
As one might expect, the article was met with incredible pushback from students within the Tri-Co, including a call to action by The Clerk’s Maurice Rippel. Though the article sparked action, this event also sought to highlight that the sentiments expressed in the Swarthmore article are not limited to just the author, but are prevalent within many members of Haverford’s community as well. Furthermore, the campaign is working to demystify the financial aid process and increase transparency and conversation surrounding the way that aid works on our campus. The campaign was joint endeavor of many groups and offices on campus, and was made possible by the efforts of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Sons of Africa, Womxn of Color, Feminists United, the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, the Ira D. Reid house, and the Black Students League.
After the welcomes and introductions were given, a brief overview of how financial aid at Haverford works was provided to the those in attendance. The purpose of this was to not only give a baseline education on the topic we would be discussing later on, but also to provide common nomenclature for complicated issues such as class. The financial aid brief was given in tandem by Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Jess Lord and the leaders of the session, Maurice Rippel ‘19 and Jhoneidy Javier ‘19.
After the financial aid crash course, students broke out into small groups and discussed the answers we had provided to questions we had be given earlier on. In essence, the questions asked the following: Have my views on financial aid been changed or challenged by the presentation so far? Am I ever made aware of my socioeconomic status? What does a socioeconomically conscious campus look like?
The small groups’ prompt questions created an immense amount of conversation, and discussion within groups was difficult due to the chorus of voices excited to share their thoughts. The students in attendance were diverse in many aspects, and answers to the questions varied accordingly. With that being said, it seemed as though most people at this talk recognized a fundamental issue with class and how it manifests itself on Haverford’s campus.
After speaking with our small groups, we reconvened as a big group and had a larger conversation about class on campus. Many important issues were brought up in this discussion such as the struggle some students on financial aid face such as paying for laundry, books, and at times, food over breaks. Conversation at this part in the afternoon was very candid, and the emotion in the room was palpable.
The meeting ended on a relatively positive note, which was one of action. Many great ideas were brought to the floor about how the administration might be able to better support students on financial aid such as bi-weekly pay, help with filling out CSS & FAFSA financial aid forms, and providing food to students over breaks.
The conversation in the Bryn Mawr room was followed by a dinner in the Dining Center with those who wished to participate, and then a more light relaxing session at the Ira Reid House comprised of socializing with friends and eating food provided by the BCC.
Looking back at the event, Javier had a few words to share about the campaign: “As an invisible identity, class affects the everyday experience of low-income students, making it very difficult to create a space to discuss the struggles of low-income students in a genuine dialogue at Haverford,” he said. “’We’re Not Here To Say Thank You’ provided that space, and the possibility for the Haverford community to think I critically on the role of class in our campus.”
Overall, the event seemed to be a huge success. Many members of the Haverford community came to the discussion either to voice their thoughts or to listen to their peers. Even those who were not able to attend the conversation joined an effort to wear white shirts on Thursday to show solidarity with the community of students on financial aid on Haverford’s campus. It was evident that this is an issue which the administration cares deeply about and is committed to working to fix. While there were no concrete promises made by the administrators in attendance, many ideas were generated and there are many groups and individuals on campus who have pledged to convert those ideas into changes on campus.
This will not be the last event related to class on campus this year.