Unlike many, I wasn’t surprised by a recent article in the Daily Gazette, the Swarthmore College student newspaper. What didn’t surprise me was the classist, implicit racism, and overall the ironic privilege in the vitriol of the penultimate paragraphs. “Demonizing wealthy students is not productive because, in the end, they are paying not just for their own education but also for the education of their hyper-liberal classmates who resent the upper class at its core.” It’s a sentiment that gets silent nods of approval, as any outspokenness could lead to judgement from “hyper-liberal” classmates. My response to Erin, and others that share these sentiments though is to pause, and consider the implications of these thoughts. Consider your friends, some of whom are likely on financial aid, or at least consider this:
When I chose a school, financial aid weighed heavily on my mind. Paying for college was a deal breaker in many instances. But based off Haverford’s promise to meet 100% of need, it was really the only choice.
When I have friends that ask me to go out to dinner, I wonder if I can pay every time—it’s always the first thought.
When classmates go thrift shopping for themed parties (80s Dance anyone), I often think about the friends—at Haverford and back home—who actively buy these clothes as a means of living.
When I have friends that openly question how a developmental league soccer player can live off of 50,000 dollars a year? It’s funny. It’s also sad. My family, like many others on campus, does more with less. I don’t know how many folks can be as shrewd as my dad with coupons and finding deals. When he would pay for groceries—sometimes with the last quarters, dimes and nickels in his pocket—I would be ashamed. But now I wear it as a badge of pride.
If 56% of students on campus are on financial aid—then that means 44% of students aren’t. These students pay (read: their families pay) the approximate $67,000 per year to attend Haverford. Students don’t pay for other students. They pay for themselves. They don’t direct who their money goes to, nor what the college uses it for. And everyone gets money to tuition from the college’s endowment.
I don’t resent the upper class (I imagine some of us do…). I resent the structures of inequality, the systemic measures that are often targeted against anyone that is not a straight, white man. And I have a resentment of being told that I “whine”, that I only got into Haverford for any other reason other than by my own merit. Am I thankful to attend a prestigious institution? Absolutely. Of course. 100%.
But I’m not here to say thank you. I work just as hard as any student—students on financial aid work just as hard as any other student.
Often, after incidents such as the cited article, communities react, express outrage, we have a Quaker-style dialogue, and then we move on. I contend though, this should not, cannot, be the case with this. Now don’t get me wrong: I recognize the importance of silence. I respect the Quaker values that are at the crux of life at Haverford. Yet the time and place for those conversations have since past. Was anyone even listening? Has anyone even changed? I encourage my peers to pause.
Take. A. Stand.
Fight for what’s right.
And let’s do something about this.