I think the minute you bring up socioeconomic class, all kinds of defenses go up. It’s difficult to have an open conversation without people feeling attacked. If we were to have a feed and say, “Let’s talk about class now,” people are likely to close up. I don’t know what the right answer is, but we need to figure out how to engage in this important conversation.
To quote Peggy McIntosh: “White privilege is like an invisible, weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.” The majority population that didn’t go to the forum may be an example of that notion. They’re not aware that they carry privileges others don’t even have access to. They may recognize that others are “disadvantaged,” but are less apt to regard themselves as “advantaged” by virtue of birth.
I don’t ask, “What did you do over break?” anymore, because it puts people in awkward positions. We are a high-pressure environment, compared to peer schools, for both boys and girls to feel like they have to conform. I’d love to get more answers about what that means. Is that body-wise? Is that [clothing]? It would be interesting to see what the students have to say.
There’s a culture at Deerfield of getting personalized apparel. You don’t find that at every school. Does that present pressures or challenges for students who don’t necessarily have the means to do that? Very few students don’t want to not purchase them too—for team unity.
-Sandra Yager, Campus Stores Manager
At the institutional level we should review some of our practices that contribute to the problem. Should there be a charge for dances? Clothing swaps have become popular, would they work here? We are attempting to have the dialogues, but people aren’t coming to the table; why not? Is there something we can do to create a safer environment for these talks?
We need to pay more attention to what each person can control, like personality and actions, rather than things like what family or how much money one is born into.
The corridors are huge here. At our feeds, everyone comes together and that socioeconomic thing melts away. We have girls from lots of different backgrounds, and man—they just hang. And I think we need to open our doors. We need communal spaces.
The problem with socioeconomic divides on campus is that the majority of us accept it and choose to ‘work within the system” that Deerfield provides. But this acceptance doesn’t lead toward discussion or problem-solving. In order for us to make progress, we need to acknowledge the problem, not just accept it.
-Anna Pettee, ’13
I think what we’re trying to get at Deerfield is that community spirit, which says, “I don’t care if you’re from the other side of the world, we can find something in common that we respect each other for.” I think we all preach that as faculty.
It’s all about how you think. If you feel good about the job you’re providing DA—whatever position that is—and see past the haves and have-nots, whether by personal reflection or observation, I think you’ll last here longer. You can get pretty cranked up that x person makes more money than you do. I don’t want to think like that. I’m here to do a job and to do it very well.
If we truly want to remove the barriers created by socioeconomic class, everybody needs to take an active role. It’s not something that can be solved by one group taking ownership of the problem; members of every group need to extend themselves.
The most important thing is that this be a topic that’s okay to talk about. There are students here who feel disenfranchised, like this isn’t their place, this is someone else’s place, and they’re just visiting and marking time. So how can we help everyone feel enfranchised, like they’re part of the enterprise? Those, I think, are the biggest challenges. As a strong school with a commitment to being inclusive, we can tackle this in a meaningful way.