Interview Essay Vincent Ye

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Vincent Ye

Trinity College Interview Social Views


College education is particularly significant to all students in the United States since they get to learn and acquire new experiences. Unfortunately, it is also during college education that most students begin to realise the disparities in race and social class that are evident in society. Hence, as they pass through the entire college experience, students find that they learn and undergo some of the most painful and unfair ordeals as a result of segregation and stereotyping. In this paper, I highlight the disparities and similarities that are evident among students of a variety of races who receive financial aid and those who do not obtain the aid.  This study will then be compared with the views of two major authors, Stacey J. Lee and Beverly D. Tatum.

Interview Essay: Detecting Patterns Across Transcripts

While some may believe that higher-income students are more brand-conscious, our study of Trinity sophomores found that both financial aid and non-financial aid students were equally likely to mention brand-name clothing and machinery when discussing social class dynamics on campus. Across all 15 interviews we conducted, financial aid students mentioned either specific brand name clothing or the higher status of brand styles in 3 out of 8 interviews with financial aid students, and 4 out of 7 interviews with non-financial students. For instance, Alice, who described herself as a female, white student from an upper middle class family, explained that the fact that she drives a Mercedes makes people think that he is well off. She states “well you drive a Mercedes that must mean that you are well off” (Alice 42). Although most students did not mention the exact brand names of the clothes they wear, most of them recognised that the type and quality of clothes one wears determines their social class and friends. Kaylie, a financial aid student who said that she is a Hispanic from two Caribbean nations noted that people who wear the same brand of cloths tend to walk together (Kaylie 36). She says “If I am not wearing that particular jacket or pair of boots, they wouldn’t assume that I am on the same level as them. They wouldn’t speak to me” (Kaylie 36). Kirsten, another financial aid student views that dressing and brand name is of great significance in regard to how other students judge her (Kirsten 20). She states that when she dresses well and makes her hair, people are likely to talk to her, smile to her and open the door for her. However, when she wears “sweatpants” people are less likely to do the same and they may not acknowledge her (Kirsten 19). In her book, Stacey Lee states that clothing style among students is vital in determining one’s social class. This is because clothes are won in public and they are used to judge where one shops, their financial ability and who they socialise with (Lee 77).

A few interviewees felt that their social status curtailed them from participating in certain activities. This is because most of them were unable to raise funds so as to join certain clubs within the institution. Others were frank enough to state that the manner in which one dressed could be used to determine if they were from a rich or poor background. This does not entirely mean that they are poor but it does insinuate that some college students judge the financial status of their peers according to their outer appearance. Yvonne, a female African-American stated that others say that she is from upper class from her appearance. She notes that most of them say that “oh is she rich,” which according to her is a misjudgement since she comes from a middle class family (Yvonne 20).

There are many stereotypes directed towards many minority groups in the United States. These stereotypes range from the fact that most of them are criminals, they are uneducated while others say that they engage in the sale and buying of illegal drugs. Many white citizens are not victims of prejudice and unfair assumptions. This is the same case in the interviews. Many non-white interviewees stated that there are various kinds of stereotypes that have been said in reference to their personality and their outward look. Nine non-white students responded that many assumptions have been directed towards them. Although these assumptions are not expressed on a day to day basis, most of them have experienced prejudice and unfair judgement. Fred, a male student who describes himself as black or African American said that once in a while, campus security has stopped him in order to enquire if he is a student in the institution (Fred 23). This must have been extremely embarrassing for Fred. Juan, a male Hispanic student stated that other students thought that he was a rapper because of his minority status (Juan 4). The evidence that has been retracted from these interviewees confirms that minority groups are more likely to receive unfair assumptions as compared to majority societies.

The interview also documents various stereotypes that were directed towards Asian communities. Most Asian students were thought to be rich or talented in science and mathematics subjects. Ruby, who is an Asian, female student notes that people in the institution assumed that because of her Asian roots, she was proficient in Mathematics and Chemistry (Ruby 29). She adds that despite this assumption, she has taken a Chemistry class two times and failed both times (Ruby 29).  Kirsten, a non-white student also notes that many students say that she is rich because she is Asian. She confirms this fact by saying that her parents work hard (Kirten 15). Kirsten further comments that she works hard herself and that is why she is able to afford everything she has. From these comments, one can conclude that Kirsten’s view of attaining wealth is that one has to work diligently so as to attain prosperity. Therefore, being rich is not a birth right; it is a result of hard work and dedication.

The distribution of different genders in higher education institutions is another factor that one should consider. Traditionally, it has been thought that more male students attain education at any level while female students may not reach higher education institutions. However, the interviewees contradict this statement since there was an equal number of male and female students. This might mean that female students have started to appreciate attaining education because of their own reasons. Another factor is student dependence on their parents or guardians for financial provisions. Among the 15 students who took part in the interview, only one of them confessed to attaining their pocket money from a job they conducted apart from schooling. Abby, a white female respondent said that she has a tutoring job which she does for three hours a week.  This job provides many opportunities and privileges to her. For example, she is able to pay for her own meals (Abby 39). Another factor that was observed across all the interviewees was the enthusiasm and great regard the students had towards their experience with the whole educational context at Trinity. These students had positive comments, some stating that they were happy to meet and socialise with diverse groups in the institution.

The description of the view of the interviewees confirms and conflicts with some ideas of some authors. For instance, in her book, Stacey Lee examines 82 Asian-American students in a high performance high school. Her findings prove that Asian Americans perform extremely well in school (Lee 23). Her depiction of these students is that they work hard, have perseverance and value their education. According to Lee, this attitude ensures that the students have the same chances of attaining the American dream as compared to their white majorities (Lee 23). Lee further states that in the school context, teachers treated all Asian American students as equals. However, these Asian students divided themselves into groups according to where they came from. Therefore, there were groups of Korean students, New Wavers and other factions (Lee 25). This is a similar case as seen in the interview. Luisa, a Hispanic student confirmed that when she was a freshman, she wanted to join La Voz Latina house, which is a Hispanic club in the institution. However, he could not join the club because she felt that she was not like the rest of the Hispanic students since she was not as fluent in Spanish as they were (Luisa 10). This only proves Lee’s views that despite the normal stereotyping that minority students have to face, they also encounter seclusion within their own minority groups.

In her book, Beverly D. Tatum discusses the entire aspect of racism and how it affects children in high school and college. Tatum’s general view is that racism is a vice that has penetrated deep into the American society such that it affects the manner in which minority groups in these institutions interact with each other and with majority students. One aspect that Tatum highlights in her book is the fact that the school context has allowed isolation of students according to their backgrounds. Therefore, Asian, Indian and African American students among other factions isolate themselves in regard to sitting positions in the classroom, in the cafeteria and even in their accommodation premises (Tatum 17). This is a depiction of what one of the interviewees stated in the interview. The fact that minorities are secluded means that they have to sit alone even in places where food is taken. Kirsten, a non-white Asian student revealed that race determines daily interactions in the institution (Kirsten 18). For instance, she noticed that in the cafeteria, there was the minority side and a sport’s side. This factor often infuriates her and most of the time; she prefers to have her meals in the cave (Kirsten 18).


The topic of social and racial stratification in the United States is inevitable because it is rooted deep in every sector of the American nation. The education sector is one of the main places where seclusion and stratification is prominent. Despite the fact that most of the respondents in the interview responded positively in regard to racial segregation, the fact that some of them had negative views shows that this issue is widespread. Other factors discussed in the paper concern minority groups versus majority groups, education among boys and girls and social interactions among different social classes. Although the interview shows that racism and minority seclusion is not very widespread, Lee and Tatum have different views. This discovery shows that education policy makers and regulators have the task of conducting vital investigations that will provide more insight on this topic.