Ali’s Reflective Change Essay

Posted on


Our First-Year Seminar, Color and Money, has had a very big impact on the way that I now think about race and social class at Trinity. Coming into the semester, I didn’t really know what to expect from the seminar other than the fact that I knew that the topic would be thought provoking and interesting. This semester, I have learned a lot about myself and discovered some of my underlying perceptions that I have regarding the college admissions process, and especially with respect to how race and social class can have a large impact on the process. At the beginning of the semester I found it fascinating and exciting to do stimulations of the college admissions process. It made me think a lot about what happened when my own application was read and what the admissions officers said about me. As anxious college applicants, we try to make our application as desirable as we possibly can, and it was interesting for me to gain a different perspective on how the process works and what goes into the process. The simulation also made me think about other people and their personal admissions process and some of the factors that may have benefitted them. Some of these factors include, legacy, athletics, and race. The seminar in general has made me think differently about race and social class and how the student population deals with the issues that stem from different races and social classes.

One of the most interesting things that we did this semester was interviewing the sophomores about their own perceptions of race and social class. Though they are only one year older than we are, they have a whole year’s worth of knowledge and experience being a member of the Trinity community. Some of the most insightful and interesting things that the sophomores said in their interviews was their observation of the defacto segregation in Mather dining hall. For me, this was extremely interesting because it is one of the first things that I noticed about Trinity. I think that this is one of the causes of some of the negative and sometimes racist feelings that people feel on campus. The discussions that we had in seminar were very thought provoking and at times, heated, which I thought were extremely valuable and enriched my overall experience in the class. Though, at times I was uncomfortable hearing some of the strong opinions of my fellow classmates, it did however cause me to look deeper inside myself and my own thought and opinions on the topic of race and social class.

For example, when we were talking about stereotypes and how black students may be treated differently by campus security officers or dining hall employees, the opinions shared and discussed showed me many different perspectives and ways of thinking about those problems that occur on campus. Though I went to public school my whole life, the town that I lived in and therefore the schools I attended, were not very diverse. I have lived a pretty sheltered life thus far, and am eager to expose myself in my years at Trinity and beyond. Though Trinity is not extremely diverse, it is a step up from the diversity I experienced growing up. As a result of the seminar, I am more aware of my perceptions ideas of different races and cultures of students at Trinity. The seminar has made me much more conscious of the separations of students by race on campus.

I think that my views on the racial differences at Trinity have changed a lot over the course of the semester as a result of the class discussions and readings that we have done as well as just by being immersed in the campus community. I think that I am more open to new ideas and opinions about race and social class as a result of this seminar. Throughout the semester, while I was learning so much in class whether in discussions in general or discussions about the books that we read, I also learned a lot about myself as a writer.

I think that my writing has grown tremendously over the course of the semester. I have learned more about critical analysis and not worrying about the complexity of the wording. I have learned to make my writing more in depth and detailed, and more on task. The specificity of the seminar helped with this issue in my writing. I believe that because the topic was controversial, I also learned to choose my words wisely and carefully. I think that with a topic like race and social class it is also not unusual for someone’s opinions to be misunderstood. So, writing clearly and objectively is important. Throughout the semester the difficulty and complexity of the writing assignments increased. This forced me to become a better writer and thinker. These are skills that I can take with me and use throughout my college career and beyond. Overall, I learned and grew tremendously in this seminar not only as a student, but also as a person.


The Interview Insights On Race & Social Class at Trinity

Posted on

Trinity College is a typical American college campus that is coping with societal problems and changes that are common in the country as the twenty-first century continues to progress. The students deal with a plethora of issues for example, coping with everything from academic and social issues to issues regarding the complex socio-economic class hierarchy and how these issues can vastly alter someone’s college experience.  These issues can have reverberations and consequences socially and academically that continue throughout the student’s college career. Our seminar conducted interviews with sophomores at Trinity to learn their perceptions and thoughts of how social class and race impact the daily lives as well as the general college experiences that students have.  By reading the transcripts of the interviews and seeing the general patterns between the demographics of the students it is clear that there is some connection to the ideas of social class and race at Trinity College. Issues of race and social class are not always so evident at first glance of the campus community at Trinity, but upon a more in depth look and examination, there are differing perceptions and attitudes of how both race and social class are perceived at Trinity College.

To investigate this topic, our seminar conducted an interview-based study of students’ perceptions of race and social class at Trinity. Our interview guide posed ten open-ended questions and three demographic questions that explored topics, such as personal awareness, social interactions, and other students’ assumptions regarding racial and social class differences at Trinity. The Office of Institutional Research and Planning provided our professor with a stratified random sample of 55 sophomores from the Class of 2016, categorized by race (white or non-white) and first-year financial aid status (receiving or not receiving). Our professor sent personalized email invitations to this group, and assigned each of us to conduct an interview with all who responded and agreed to participate. The typical interview lasted about ten minutes, and was transcribed by the interviewer. The final sample consisted of 18 interviews: 10 students who received financial aid (4 white and 6 non-white), and 8 students who did not receive financial aid (4 white and 4 non-white). All names are pseudonyms and personally identifiable details have been masked, in accordance with our research ethics confidentiality agreement approved by the Trinity College Institutional Review Board.

By examining the transcripts of the interviews more closely it is not difficult to see a pattern that encompasses many of the students that receive financial aid from the college and their attitudes and their concern with self-presentation. Our interview research found that there are differences in how the students who receive financial aid feel about self-presentation and the students who do not receive financial aid feel about self-presentation. Therefore, how peers may or may not perceive them and their social class based on their self-presentation. Though one might think that in general the students who receive financial aid might be more cognizant of their appearance and self-presentation in comparison to their peers who do not receive financial aid, this is not what our research found. In fact, the interview data and transcripts actually show that more students who do not receive financial aid care or self-report that they care about their self-presentation.  Self-presentation is a key idea in college because as adolescents and students it is not unusual for people to find a significant other during their time in college.  In analyzing the interviews, we found that three out of the seven financial aid students are concerned with their self-presentation and four out of six non-financial aid students are concerned with their self-presentation. There also were patterns of how the Trinity sophomores perceived their own race and how it can be a barrier that is created for them and their social lives at Trinity College.

There is a distinct correlation in many of the interviews, about the possibilities of racial barriers that inhibit different races from interacting at Trinity. For example, a large number of the sophomore interviewees who are non-white, who said that they do believe that there some sort of racial barrier that inhibits certain students from being included in social events and activities. In one interview in particular, Juan observes that there are misconceptions about certain races and generalizations and stereotypes about what certain races and ethnicities should enjoy and activities people from those races should participate in (Juan p. 4). Juan observes that although he is non-white, he does not necessarily enjoy hip-hop or R&B as much as people of other races—white—would assume that he likes because of what his family’s heritage and culture might suggest in the larger scheme of things. Throughout many of the interviews, the interviewees indicated that there are definitely racial stereotypes that are expressed and beliefs that are held about certain races. The stereotypes of different races are definitely prevalent throughout the interviews. When asked if he thinks that there have been any assumptions made of him based on his race, Fred, an African-American student noted that he has been stopped by campus security on several occasions and asked if he is a student at Trinity. Though Fred seemed to brush off these somewhat negative interactions with campus security, it is still significant to consider how and why they happened in the first place (Fred p. 23). Nonwhite students in general did not suggest or really notice that their race had any influence on how they interacted with their fellow students at Trinity. This pattern gives good insight into how students at Trinity see the effect that their own race can alter their perceptions and experiences at Trinity.

Several of the interviewed students noted that a person’s social class won’t cause that person to be excluded or included in an event or activity, but it might change the possibility of a person participating in an event or activity for financial reasons or restrictions. One student, Serafino, feels that inclusive or exclusive situations are  “Not at a social level. I don’t think people necessarily include or exclude people based on social class, but some things people do just cost a certain amount of money to be able to do. When it comes to that I think there is a divide, there’s an exclusion factor, but just solely based on someone’s availability to participate in something. Not on a social level necessarily” (Serafino p. 34). Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, would argue that many of the students who were interviewed are in various stages of her theory of Racial Identity Development. Depending on who they associate themselves with socially or how they see themselves in terms of their race. Tatum would argue that students such as Juan, would be in the middle of the stages encounter, in which individuals experience “a certain level of racism, which leads to self- segregation and an active desire to find those who have shared experiences” (Tatum p. 55-56) and the immersion/emersion stage of racial identity development. For individuals in this stage of racial identity development, “…the person at the immersion/emersion phase is unlearning the internalized stereotypes about his or her own group and is redefining a positive sense of self” (Tatum p.76). Juan is in between these stages because although he acknowledges that he has been on the target of racism, he does associate with people outside of his race and does not intentionally segregate himself from students of different races (Juan p. 4). Tatum would say that Fred is somewhat in the pre-encounter stage of racial identity development. This would be the case because in the encounter stage, individuals,  “…absorb beliefs and values of the dominant white culture, including white superiority and black inferiority” (Tatum p. 55).

Several students noted that they tend to naturally gravitate socially to other students who come from similar backgrounds racially and ethnically to their own background, Kaylie, a nonwhite student, noted that she sees herself as the exception to this because she does not hang out with a group of students from her background, or a similar background.  As a result of this, Kaylie thinks that she has in fact become more aware of her race since coming to Trinity. “Yes, because I have noticed that black people making in general…they tend to hang out together and I actually do not hang out with many black people in daily basis… so whenever I go out with friends and library and anywhere I tend to be the only black person in my group” (Kaylie p. 37). Three nonwhite students, Michael, Luisa, and Kirsten all felt that the Mather Dining Hall has some of the most clear and evident examples of how segregated racially Trinity College can be in certain situations and places. All three of these students notice the literal and figurative division of where people sit in Mather and how that directly corresponds to their race or ethnicity. “…Especially like uhm, it’s interesting cause I feel like even in Mather you just see how the division is really apparent, and so like I’ve seen it there and I’m really conscious about it there too” (Luisa p. 9). Kirsten also observed the stark contrast of where students sit when they are eating in Mather. She said that on a daily basis this is the clearest example of how students are divided racially at Trinity College. “Daily interactions? Um, I mean, for example Mather I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s very segregated in terms of seating area. I mean at first I didn’t notice it until someone pointed it out and I was like oh yeah you know like there’s a sport side and then there’s like a minority side. So sometime like this year, like last year I was always like contemplating which side I should like sit in and it just ruined my meal. So after thinking about it I’m like I’m not even hungry anymore I’ll just go to the Cave” (Kirsten p. 18). These three students’ observations of the culture of one of the biggest communal spots on campus highlight the subtle presence, yet, presence, nonetheless of a divide in how students of minority races and ethnicities do not interact or coexist with one another at Trinity. It is interesting that though eight white students were interviewed, none of them identified Mather as a clear example of the racial segregation and separation that some of their non-white peers pointed out.

Stereotypes based on race and social class as identified by several of the students who were interviewed also relate to Stacey Lee’s theory of racial identity. In her book, Unraveling The Model Minority, Lee explains that people will act according to the stereotype that is consistent with how the society thinks and portrays them. Specifically, Lee states that, The process of identity formation among all of the Asian American students was influenced by their perceptions regarding their positions and locations within society and their understanding of their interests. Asian American students in all four groups judges their situations by comparing their social positions to that of whites, non-white minorities, and other Asian Americans,”( Lee p. 121).  Lee’s book chronicles her time and research at a high school in Philadelphia where racial identification  and racial categorization is common (Lee p. 4). The students who were interviewed, more specifically the non white-students, felt that because of their race, others perceived them to have certain characteristics and personality traits. Ruby, for example, explains how she does not fit one of the stereotypes associated with Asians, “…I mean, I guess it’s just like– how I said before, like, people assume that just ’cause you’re Asian you’re gonna be great at math and chem, and stuff like that. And, I’ve taken chem twice, and I basically failed both times already [laughs]. So, I guess just like that but… yea. Not so much people are like– like, blatantly racist. You know, but like they make assumptions that because people are Asian they’re gonna be great at, like, the sciences…” (Ruby p.30). This is just one example of how stereotypes and assumptions often increase the negative associations that go along with minority races.         This pattern of racial stereotypes, whether that be a negative or positive, is a something that the majority of the interviewees expressed during their interviews.

In conclusion, the patterns and commonalities in the interviews with students of similar backgrounds and racial demographics, it is clear that students at Trinity are in the process of understanding the basis for why these divisions are present on the campus of Trinity College. From a simple glance at the school and the student population, it is not necessarily clear that there are issues regarding race and social class at Trinity. Yet, when these issues are investigated in greater detail, there is evidence that race and social class backgrounds of students can have an influence on the everyday lives of students at Trinity. Both Tatum and Lee’s theories of racial identity development and racial identity have relevance in terms of how they accurately depict many of the problems such as race and social class that students deal with whether they are conscious of it or not, on a daily basis.

Works Cited:

Stacey Lee, Unraveling the “Model Minority” Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth, second edition (New York: Teachers College Press, 2009).

Beverly Daniel Tatum, “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations about Race, revised edition (New York: Basic Books, 2003).

Mark’s Racial Wake Up Call

Posted on

Mark, a young white student attending University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is dealing with a lot of changing perspectives in his life, primarily the change in racial demographics of his fellow students at his university. Up until this point, Mark had not been exposed to many other races other than his own, white. In her book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, Beverly Daniel Tatum argues that there are different stages of racial development and growth. Tatum would believe that Mark is in the racial development stage called “Pseudo independent” —in which the individual begins to feel guilty for ones racial identity. This individual recognizes the problem of racism and knows that he/she is systematically advantaged in this society and attempts to associate with people of color (Tatum p. 106). Tatum would argue that Mark is in the stage because he is making an effort to get to know people of other races, like in the gospel choir.


Mark Singing In His Gospel Choir (Skin Deep minute 13)
Mark Singing In His Gospel Choir (Skin Deep minute 13)

Mark enjoys singing in a church choir; he was given the opportunity to join a gospel choir, in which he is one of the only white members. Mark is associating himself with another race beginning to empathize with them and realize how difficult it must be to be a minority in a large group. The scene in the movie “Skin Deep”, with the gospel choir is key because Mark explains how his opinions and views are evolving as a result of being a member of this choir. “The first time I was there I really felt uncomfortable. Obviously there were all African-American people there that I felt like I had nothing in common with… the major thing I realized was that that must be how they feel in my school when there’s only two other black people” (Skin Deep minute 13). However, his views are really only changing in the context of the gospel choir, not as a whole, at least not yet. Mark’s racial identity development will continue to evolve, especially during college when he is exposed to a much more racially and ethnically diverse student body and atmosphere.




Works Cited



Reid, Frances, Sharon Wood, Sarah Cahill, Michael Chin, Stephen McCarthy, Deborah Hoffmann, and Mary Watkins. Skin Deep. Berkeley, CA: Iris Films, 1995.


Tatum, Beverly D. “why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race”New York: BasicBooks, 1999. Print.


Ali’s Persuasive Essay–Merit Matters

Posted on

This essay was assigned to be written from the perspective of a merit matters advocate, and does not necessarily represent the views of the author.


The college admissions process has become increasingly complex in recent decades. The value of a college degree  is increasing, creating a bigger demand for students to apply and enroll. Colleges are pressured not only to accept the best and most deserving students, but also to accept students of minority races. This system can become quite unfair to those students who are not in minority races. The admissions process used in the simulation by The College, chose to consider race as a factor (Decision Day). Though the system that the admissions representatives at The College elected to use was done legally, and in accordance with the Constitution; it was not done solely on applicants’ merit. Therefore, it violates color-blind proponents’ values about how race shouldn’t be considered in the process.The financial aid budget of seventy thousand dollars was distributed appropriately based on the need each admitted student had expressed. The admissions officers, instructed to admit the best possible entering class, chose not to weigh race heavily, but because they chose to included it, conflicts with the belief that the admissions process should be judged exclusively on merit.

Merit in the college admissions process means that the applicants is judged on how they performed and excelled as students both in and out of the classroom. This includes, but is not limited to high school GPA, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and any academic awards or honors the student may have earned. By viewing the student from a perspective without including their racial identity, it creates an objective view of them and their application. In the simulation of The College, the process was legal, the admissions team factored in race into the applicant-scoring process, creating a color-conscious approach rather than the more favorable merit based and color-blind approach (Decision Day). A race-blind admissions process, especially in 2013, is difficult because colleges want to be able to advertise that they have a diverse campus. The College wants to be able to show potential applicants that they are a community that values diversity. Having a diverse campus can add to the quality of the education not only for students, but also for faculty and staff. However, colleges should not have to sacrifice the quality of their entering class because they are focused on creating a diverse one. In the simulation of The College, race was not a pivotal factor, yet, it did have some impact on the outcome of many of the applicants. On decision day, the  number generator spit out numbers of whether the student the admissions officers chose to admit was revealed, the admissions team was left with the hard choice of going down the list of applicants and their rankings. Applicants were skipped over for ones that were lower down on the ratings scale because they were not members of a minority group, or would cost The College too much. For example, Lisa Wu had a higher cumulative admissions score, but The College’s admissions committee chose to pass over her. Instead, the committee chose to admit Daniel Juberi, who had a lower cumulative admissions score than Lisa Wu (Decision Day). This is violating the ideal that the admissions process should be color-blind. By skipping over applicants because they aren’t a minority, or a certain gender, the committee is determining their decision based on personal qualities, not based on their academic and extracurricular profiles.

Applicants to The College should be evaluated based on their academic and extracurricular profiles. It is important that The College accepts students who have academic records and profiles that indicate that they will succeed in college. Applicants’ extra-curricular activities and involvement in the community are a good indicator of whether or not the student will be a successful college student. The quality of the candidate is what should determine the outcome of their admission decision, not their race or ethnicity. In fact, the race and ethnicity of the student shouldn’t be included in the application. Of course, every college wants to have a diverse student body.  Yet, does this mean that colleges, specifically The College, should sacrifice the caliber of their admitted students in favor of a campus that is not homogeneous? “The problem is that few students who receive a preference realize that their entering academic credentials are well below the institutional median” (Heriot 453). If colleges accept a minority student that does not necessarily have the best credentials, they are less likely to be successful in their college career. Students who are struggling to keep up with the workload will not get as much out of their college experience. So, it is advantageous for colleges to admit students who are best suited for success not only during their time at the college, but also after they graduate.

Institutions of higher education such as The College need to maintain their reputation of being a selective and elite school. In order to do this, they must admit the best applicants.  This idea is flawed and affected somewhat based on applicants who may qualify for financial aid. Applicants to The College who are not a minority and who will cost the college money are not as desirable. As James Jackson argues, affirmative action is intended at helping the minority students, but it just ends up leaving the white applicants at a disadvantage.  Jackson feels that the main reasoning and rationalization for affirmative action is to right the wrongs of generations past (Jackson). The admission process should give equal opportunity to everyone, regardless of their race. However, trying to create a campus that is diverse, can cause the admissions team to stray away from the real mission of the admissions team:  to create the best possible class. Having the knowledge of a person’s racial or ethnicity could also bring personal biases of admissions officers to the forefront.

There have been Supreme Court cases in recent years that were brought forward by white plaintiffs who feel that they were rejected by that particular institution because of their race. In the 2003 Supreme Court Case “Gratz v. Bollinger”, Jennifer Gratz argued that she was denied admission to the undergraduate school at the University of Michigan because she was white and the point system used to assess the applicants was not fair. The point system gave an automatic twenty points to applicants who were a member of a minority group. The Court decided that race was allowed in the admissions process but that the point system had to be overhauled (Rehnquist). The system that The College used in the admissions simulation was a point system. And although the point scale was much smaller than the one used at the University of Michigan, the fact that any points at all were allotted to minority students is not assessing the applicants on their merit alone (Rehnquist). Just how color-conscious advocates favor allowing race to be a factor and then would therefore agree with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Gratz case, advocates of a merit-based admission would disagree with how the Supreme Court ruled in this controversial and highly scrutinized case in 2003. There are conflicting views about how or if race is included in the college admission process. These conflicting views are not only problematic for students, but also for the administrators who are involved in the admissions process of higher education. Affirmative action is problematic for college administrators because of the constant struggle to give equal educational opportunity to all students, regardless of race.

The admissions simulation of The College brought  key issues about race and money to the surface. The admissions officers chose to skip over certain applicants based on their financial need and their race (Decision Day). The financial need of the applicants didn’t have a very large impact on their admission. The budget was large enough and was distributed strategically enough that all applicants received their expressed need. The merit based grant was a bonus, and the admissions committee used it wisely when it was awarded to Jazmine Hope-Martin. The system  the admissions officers created and participated in is not a complete merit-based system. Knowledge of the applicants’ races were clearly marked on their application and they were even granted points for being a member of a minority group (Decision Day). Though the points were unsubstantial, they were points nonetheless. Though this is Constitutionally legal, this is contradictory to the beliefs of people who value student academic and extracurricular performance in college admission. The admissions team at The College did not use the best system or methods to admit the three applicants. In the future, The College should not include any points in their point system for race of the applicant. If the race or ethnicity of the student is mention in passing, that is okay, but it should not become a component in the total points. In terms of financial aid, The College did a  good job of allocating aid to the  applicants based on their expressed need, so I think that this should remain the same in future admissions processes. In all, the class that was admitted, and enrolled was strong; these applicants will be flourishing members of The College community.


Works Cited


Decision Day (from in class simulation), Color & Money seminar at Trinity College, Fall 2013,

Gratz Et Al v Bollinger Et Al. The Supreme Court of The United States. 23 June 2003. Google Scholar. N.p., n.d. Web.

Heriot, Gail. “Just Say No to Affirmative Action.” (2011): 449-53.EBSCOhost. Web.

Jackson, James S. “Affirmative Action and the Illusion of Racial Equality: “Race Traitors or Fools?”” Black Scholar 33.3-4 (2003): 5-8. Web.