The Scroll conducted open forums on socioeconomic class for students, faculty and staff in early December. Thirty students, 12 faculty and 13 staff participated. To engage staff members, we contacted specific departments and met with those who responded. We also interviewed the counselors and some staff members separately.
Though the student forum was open to all students, attendees wished the turnout had been more diverse. Some students said the topic of class differences, a reality beyond campus, was an important conversation to have.
“I definitely agree that socioeconomic standing should be a discussion at Deerfield,” Michael Beit ’15 said. If we’re going to represent a larger community, we should talk about it. But I know some people may feel uncomfortable talking about it. We’ve been taught never to talk about money.”
Other students discussed whether or not socioeconomic class differences were an issue. Garam Noh ’15 said class was a part of everyday life.
“If someone tries not to talk about it, he or she is trying to ignore the fact that the differences are there,” she said. “Sometimes people do feel very big differences in socioeconomic class here. It’s important to be conscious of that.”
“Is this something that we want to change?” Wyatt Sharpe ’13 asked. “Having differences is something I find really valuable. One of the most important things we learn is how to talk to people who are different.”
While Jade Moon ’13 said students “don’t see the full effect” of class differences, Daniel Hirsch ’13 argued it was easy to tell. Others said conformity and wanting to fit in played a part in how class differences appear on campus.
“I can’t buy a pair of Jack Rogers without being accused, ‘You’re giving in,’” Noh said.
“In a way, we all conform just by looking at other people and other groups and saying they’re only friends because they’re conforming to each other,” Anna Pettee ’13 said. “We’re conforming just by saying they’re a group and giving them a label.”
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a Deerfield thing to stick with people in your comfort zone,” Claire Collins ’15 said. “It’s a natural human tendency to be with people you’re comfortable with, especially in a new place.”
“I think it’s a very individual experience,” Kuo responded. “Last year on my hall, there were people I didn’t speak more than 20 words to the entire year. And do you think it’s taboo to talk about class? Is it awkward to talk about it?”
“I think there are plenty of instances when people assume stuff, because they don’t understand the whole story,” Allison Gruneich ’13 said. She recalled when she wore an expensive dress to Semi, but paid a twentieth of the price by renting it online.
Many students said the people who came to the forum did not adequately represent those in the “dominant culture.”
“Look at this group— coming here was an option for everyone in the school, yet we only get a small number of people that doesn’t represent a certain class very well. Why do you think that is?” Jade Moon asked.
Miranda McEvoy ’13 said, “We are here and some of us want this change, but in order for this change to happen, it has to happen with the people outside of this circle.”
After the forum, Hirsch said he wished The Scroll would schedule another forum on socioeconomic class. “I talked to some kids who wished they had gone, and I think the discussion would move in a different direction next time,” Hirsch said.
The Scroll invites signed letters to the editor or opinion pieces in response to this article and transcripts. We hope to organize a panel and interview more students, faculty and staff to publish the thoughts and experiences of people across the entire socioeconomic spectrum.