Vol. LXXXVII, No. 7.5 DEERFIELD ACADEMY, DEERFIELD, MA 01342
What You Missed at the Socioeconomic Class Forum Is Privilege an Issue? I think it’s woven into every facet of school culture, how much money kids come from or don’t come from. I think we need to be careful about not thinking that wealthy kids have it so easy, because everyone has issues and everyone has things that they’re struggling with. But in terms of financial considerations, I think it can be difficult to be a Deerfield student and wanting to keep up... There’s a very different reality for kids who don’t come from a lot of money. I really do think we need to be careful about how we frame the conversation. -Amie Creagh, Dean of Students One student said, “I don’t even get why we’re talking about this because it’s not a problem. Why are we making a problem out of it?” There’s nothing I can do for someone to make him see it’s a problem that doesn’t exist for him... It’s true that socioeconomic class is a part of life—it’s not an issue because it’s a fact. Deerfield tries to be a microcosm of a regular community. There are people from all different backgrounds, and there’s not much you can do about that. -Sarah Sutphin ’13 Talk to kids when college acceptance letters come and you will likely see—and I don’t know if that’s how some students truly feel—but if their acceptance is based on their sports performance or family connections, it’s fine, but if it’s based on socioeconomic status, that changes everything... I think Deerfield could improve tremendously if we had more middle-class students. Students have one view of the wealthy and one view of people without a lot of money, and almost no one is talking to or about the middle class. -Darnell Barnes, Math Teacher Over time, I’ve noticed kids who are working class make more of an effort to get to know the kitchen staff. I remember one girl who knew the entire staff by name. Maybe they have more of an appreciation for what a workman does. I don’t know. -Bruce MacConnell, Dining Hall Staff Part of me thinks…the more talk there is, the worse the problem [there is]. So when you talk about socioeconomic divide, the more talk there is about it, the more apparent it becomes. One thing that I’ve noticed over the years by having advisees is that as I’ve talked to them I’ve said, “So what’s the hardest thing for you about Deerfield?” and the answer has been, “Saying where you’re from.” -Mimi Morsman, Director of Alumni Relations There’s pressure to spend whether it’s on clothing, money for The Greer, going to a restaurant on a weekend, ordering food, or signing up for a school trip. It’s a strain for many families to be able to keep up and it inevitably means that you’re going to have challenges bridging the gap. -John Taylor, Dean of Faculty We have all made assumptions about a person’s socioeconomic class based on his or her persona. We reason that because somebody likes to do this or that he must have a lot of money, or because somebody speaks in a certain way, she probably comes from a humble background. This leads us to hide aspects of who we are so as not to be labeled by those around us. This is an issue that is present in greater society— not just Deerfield. -Gabby Gauthier ’13 There’s no question that our student body demographic does not reflect the national demographic. At a wealthy independent school there is sometimes this aspirational language of bringing in the best from everywhere. -Steven Taft, Language Teacher Schools like Deerfield, colleges too, end up having the “barbell effect,” where we have very wealthy people who can attend here without financial aid and then we have people who get a lot of financial aid. The middle class gets squeezed out because they can’t afford it and the formula for financial aid often doesn’t make it possible for them to come… -Elizabeth Bishop, College Advisor and Self-Study Coorinator Living only within our socioeconomic class, we might start thinking negatively or stereotypically about people outside our class. We might have preconceived connotations and feel uncomfortable crossing supposed barriers. But after being exposed to different socioeconomic classes at Deerfield, I don’t think class is something I think about every day. It’s there and, for me, it doesn’t merit attention or change how I perceive someone as a person. -Morgan Macey ’14 Yes, I believe Deerfield experiences issues related to socioeconomic class. After all, Deerfield is simply a microcosm of the world and our environment is vulnerable to the impacts of socioeconomic class the same as the rest of the world. If I were to simplify the issue, I’d say the problem at Deerfield is a lack of awareness coupled with a lack of sharing of experiences. Those who come from a privileged background lack awareness of what it is like for those who don’t. - Sheila Fritz, Counselor
BY KRISTY HONG Editor-in-Chief
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.
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Is there a divide? I feel like the term “dominant culture” doesn’t necessarily mean the people who embody it are more numerous than the people who don’t. I think it’s preexisting expectations and a lot of the traditions here. -Garam Noh ’15
January 18, 2013 It’s very clear that the faculty have more opportunities based on their education and role here. It’s very segregated in that. But I’m learning more that you really can’t push the envelope in terms of expecting equal pay, equal anything, because you’re not entitled to the benefits the faculty have. We [the staff] talk about how it affects us as folks who want to be here, give our lives to be working at Deerfield. -Susie Driver, Athletic Stockroom Assistant
It’s much more than socioeconomic class that will affect relationships; it’s not like everyone is going in and saying they’re richer or poorer than me. I don’t think there’s as strong of I felt uncomfortable bringing a divide than what I’ve heard in the conversation here, but a nice gift from my parents to that might just be personal school, because I would be experience. -Anna Lu ’13 judged. If I come with a really nice bag, will I be judged by my I come from outside the friends who don’t have that? I boarding school culture, and I don’t want to make someone have many colleagues in ministry uncomfortable by having nice who express wonder that I’m stuff in my room, but should I teaching at a “rich school.” So feel that way because my parents the question of socioeconomic gave it to me? -Sarah Sutphin’13 diversity is a live one for me. I don’t know where some The reality, though, is complex, and a direct approach can of the kids come from. They’re appear judgmental and raise probably richer than God, but defenses. So I think you have they’re just down-to-earth kids. to be subversive in how you I feel like we’re all on the same address the issue. You just have level, whatever socioeconomic to be prophetic and call it like class we come from. Over the you see it. -Chad Smith, years, I’ve never met a kid I Dean of Spritual and Ethical Life didn’t like. -Bruce Dion, Custodian
Does Class Affect Friend Groups?
I don’t think the lack of interaction between friend groups is offensive, or demeaning, but it is simply because we lack a common ground. For girls, we talk about what we wear and that’s a different story for each social class, friend group, and mixed cultures. I simply think that there is no middle ground, and the lack of it doesn’t allow for room to approach with other friend groups. -Stefani Kuo ’13 Do you think there’s so much structure in our schedule that we only notice during the free time people go together in their sort of groups, because that’s the only time they can do that since we’re mixed all the time? -Claire Collins ’15 The purpose of school is to learn, and how do we learn? We can learn from our peers. If we only go around with people we are familiar or comfortable with, then we’re not learning. We can stay at home and do the same thing. -Sal Liu ’15 I don’t think we should be chastised for befriending people we’re similar to or know well from before. But if you come into it close-mindedly, only associate yourself with certain people, I think that’s an area that needs attention. I’m not saying it’s bad to associate with people who are like you, but try different things. We need to diversify our school by having people from different classes interacting. -Jared Armes ’15
How Does Dress Code Relate to Socioeconomic Class?
The dress code is one of the biggest ways socioeconomic issues come out into the forefront of our culture, because I know if I’m going to get a real blazer, it’s a huge investment. I like the point about dress code meaning we are shifting to a potential set of career opportunities and that sets some expectations, but we need to examine what we take on solely as a tradition and can’t accept it just because it is a tradition. We need to consider the pros and cons outside of the idea. -Nolan Bishop ’13 I would say that we are outgrowing our dress code. It’s going to start to push the good people away from Deerfield. Second Visit days are very interesting for some of the female students who come on campus, because they see students and can say, “These girls look like they’re going to a garden party. Is this what you wear when you learn?” And I don’t want to criticize the girls, don’t get me wrong, but I feel that the dress code, because the the male code sets the standard and there is no standard for women that matches coat and tie, is problematic. What is the right choice is the question. Maybe no dress code. I actually like it better when we dress “down,” and this aspect of other schools’ culture may be attracting more diverse students than we are. -Sonja O’Donnell, English Teacher I used to work at Andover and it has no dress code; students can wear whatever they want. I think Deerfield’s dress code sends a message. Every day boys here have to put on a jacket and tie, and girls often dress in skirts. This is a class thing. Lower-income prospective students touring Deerfield won’t see people who dress like they do, so I would imagine they might feel uncomfortable here. I think our dress code may turn off students from classes other than the wealthy. -Elizabeth Bishop Faculty and staff may be modeling class differences. Faculty need to follow dress code and can’t wear jeans, while some staff do. It’s not very egalitarian. - Ada Fan, English Teacher I have a fetish about people not dressing nice. Where I live in Turners, everybody dresses like bums. Here, there’s no problem. They’re always dressed nice. I must be getting old, but I just like people to dress up nicer. -Bruce Dion
Is Identity Independent of Class? It’s easy to conform and hide what your background is. VOL. LXXXVII, NO. 6
January 18, 2013
Editor-in-Chief KRISTY HONG Front Page CASEY BUTLER Opinion/Editorial SAMMY HIRSHLAND
Graphics TATUM MCINERNEY Online JOHN LEE
Arts & Entertainment MIRANDA MCEVOY Features CAROLINE KJORLIEN Sports SARAH SUTPHIN Photography & Layout ASHLEY SO
Online Associate DAVE KIM Editorial Associates CHARLOTTE ALLEN COLE HORTON TARA MURTY EMILY NG JON VICTOR
Advisors JULIANNE SCHLOAT & ADA FAN The Deerfield Scroll, established in 1925, is the official student newspaper of Deerfield Academy. The Scroll encourages informed discussion of pertinent issues that concern the Academy and the world. Signed letters to the editor that express legitimate opinions are welcomed. We hold the right to edit for brevity. The Scroll is published eight times yearly. Advertising rates provided upon request. Opinion articles with contributors’ names attached represent the views of the respective writers. Opinion articles without names represent the consensus views of the editorial staff.
Letter from the Editor
Dear Reader: When we first announced The Scroll planned to pursue a story on socioeconomic class, we faced mixed reviews. While some people said the forums would stir important conversations, others said they might be potentially corrosive. Nonetheless, we held the forums and now present the opinions of those who attended. Whether or not socioeconomic class is an issue, we felt that publishing the ideas of students, faculty, and staff could provoke discussion. The Scroll editors did not have an agenda or seek token voices that argued for and against privilege. We neither acknowledge the existence of a “dominant culture” nor condone what some students call a “divide.” Throughout the reporting, editing and laying out process, we have striven for objectivity. Every attendee knew the forums were recorded and portions would eventually be published. We did our best to choose quotes that were clear, provided diverse opinions, and showed insight into Deerfield’s culture. Many students who came to the forum said they wished more people from higher socioeconomic classes had attended. We covered charged material, so we can understand why this issue may seem unbalanced. The Scroll will continue to pursue this topic, interviewing more people who want to respond to this broadsheet or give another side of a complex, difficult topic. To Ashley So and Sammy Hirshland—I cannot thank you enough for your patience, extra hours and persistence, all of which made this issue possible. -Kristy Hong, Editor-in-Chief
Diversity Director Reflects on MLK Day BY TARAH GREENIDGE
Okay, it’s time to reflect. Thinking, thinking... What should I say? Focus, Tarah, focus. What should I write? Let’s see, I wonder what they want to hear? Do they want to hear about how I got here? To Deerfield Academy—or how I got to this place in my life? Do you think they care that my dad was with MLK Jr. on his final day at the Lorraine Motel, or that I grew up hearing stories about race and equality or the lack thereof ? What about knowing that my parents were told to sit and/or stand in places that were separated from those with different skin colors? That my mother was one of the first non-white students to attend Michigan State University; her experience was nothing like mine. Do you think they want to know that I grew tired of hearing about the Civil Rights movement when I was a teenager because in my privileged, private high school world, the only important things were if you had the newest leather motorcycle boots or Coach messenger bag? Do they want to know I had so many Jewish friends that I wanted my own Bat Mitzvah, but settled for a “Super Sweet 16”–yeah, MTV, I did it first! That I truly did grow up blind—blind of color, blind of socioeconomic status, blind of gender—just blind? What about my first job in college admissions, Director of MultiEthnic Recruitment, which aimed to bring more students of color to the rural bubble that is Bard College? Then six years later (adding oversight of a college opportunity program to my business card), increasing an underrepresented student population from six percent to 16.8 percent—Bard had never been so diverse. Did they really want to be? I ask because it was not impossible to be, yet it had never been done. Stop—question: What is “diversity”? Is it just about race? Why do we assume it is just black and white? It’s supposed to be about equality and equal access, not just skin color. MLK Jr. did not devote his life to race; he devoted his life to equality. To equal wages for all, to equal access to education, to the right to date, love and marry whomever we choose. Do I think they get that? How can I get them to see it’s bigger than just race and that it’s as relevant now as it was on April 4, 1968? Will they even know that was the day MLK Jr. was assassinated, or will I have to tell them? It’s funny, I used to tell my dad that his tales of race and equality were not relevant to me—“that was then and this is now,” I would say while sitting at the kitchen table. My father just looked at me, shaking his head. Yet right now I find myself sitting here, at my kitchen table reflecting, typing and realizing that “then is now.”
-Jade Moon ’13
Mr. O’Donnell went to boarding school, and he had the observation that boarding school could hide socioeconomic difference in a way because you have such limited space–you have just a little cubicle, you’re not going to someone’s house. They may talk about their vacations, and that’s the real world, but none of it’s really real, so you can kind of reinvent yourself and choose not to express the reality of your background. -Sonja O’Donnell I feel like it’s not easy at all to hide your socioeconomic class because you’re always in other people’s rooms and you see everything they have. -Daniel Hirsch ’13 As much as we hate to admit it, conforming is really nice, because it’s easy. I know a lot of people who have something that makes them different and would kill for nothing more than to get rid of that. Even though we say we should be different and do our own thing, it’s really hard. I don’t think we should accuse people of conforming. -Michael Beit ’15 Is the bigger conversation about self-confidence? Who has that ability to be who they are? To be able to say, “No, I don’t need to buy those. I’m okay with wearing this, and with where my family comes from.” It’s hard for an adolescent, so I think we, as a community, could do a better job. I don’t know what it is that we should do to make people feel comfortable wearing whatever they want, going wherever they want on the weekend, or friending whomever they want. So that self-confidence piece is a big, over arching piece of the puzzle. -Kristin Loftus, Residential Head, Health Services You have to think about the kids who aren’t in that dominant culture. What if they do think about it all the time because they feel, “I’m not in this dominant culture. I’m going to be judged because I don’t have all the things other kids have.” It’s uncomfortable, because while it’s great that we are such a wonderful, accepting place, everyone else has their own insecurities. Those can hinder some from really trying. -Tarah Timothe ’15 I think the message at the outset about “it’s not what you have on your body, but it’s how you carry yourself and it’s how you are as a person” is more important. -Mimi Morsman One of the biggest challenges at this stage of life—adolescence—is figuring out who you are and where you fit in. You’re thrown into this mix of 630+ other teens asking those same questions. How quickly and easily anyone can start to feel like they should be more like the others or should have access to what they have, and that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t. That can feel very burdensome. -Stuart Bicknell, Psychologist, Coordinator of Counseling Health Services
What You Missed at the Forum ...Continued
Where Do We Go From Here?
“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.
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. -John Taylor
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.
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. -Stuart Bicknell 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. -Kristin Loftus 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? -Sheila Fritz 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. -Claire Collins 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. -Sonja O’Donnell 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. -Kristin Loftus 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. -Susie Driver 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. -Sheila Fritz 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. -Stuart Bicknell