Wealth’s Seperating Ways

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With the end of my first semester of College nearing, I am able to take some time and reflect on what these past few months have taught me and revealed to me.

Coming from more liberal and welcoming surroundings in the San Francisco Bay Area, I, in many aspects, have been in shock from the reserved and pretentious nature inevitable amongst the student body at Trinity College. I was not used to being judged based on my clothing and appearance nor my cultural, political or religious beliefs. At first I thought these were all just disparities that existed in part due to the Class of 2017’s universal unfamiliarity with its new collegiate surroundings. However, with some help from my First Year Color and Money Seminar, I’ve now realized that this judgmental and exclusive culture is engrained into the old wealth of the northeast and more than likely the old wealth of America as well.

Before coming to college, I’m not sure I appreciated the prevalence of money as a social separator. I was aware of the classist-based movements sweeping the nation but simply saw our nation’s class divide in statistics; I never realized the implications it had. In other words, I knew the nations wealth was dispersed unevenly, but was not aware of the extent an individuals personal wealth would push them to separate into an elitist group of their own. This is Trinity College.

The abundance of wealth and egoism at Trinity College is overwhelming, and seeing as it consistently comes from extremely affluent northeasterners; I believe it to be indicative of the old wealth of the northeast as well. I’ve heard a wealthy prep-school graduate with below a 3.0 GPA at Trinity state that he feels that poor people are bringing down America and that people who grew up in extreme poverty should’ve simply worked harder to make it to a prestigious collegiate institution. Mitchell L. Stevens describes the intrinsic unfairness of this statement in his book Creating a class: “Keenly aware of the terms of elite college admission, privileged parents do everything in their power to make their children into ideal applicants” (Stevens, p.20).  Regardless, this hypocritical idea appears to be the consensus of a good portion of Trinity’s predominantly conservative student body. Additionally, I’ve heard another wealthy individual on a separate occasion refer to workers of the college as peasants. This may be an abnormally outright statement, but it unfortunately accurately represents many individuals negativity toward the lower classes at Trinity. Lastly, I’ve seen a significant amount of apathy towards academic achievement at Trinity. Many individuals feel with the connections and wealth that their family has accrued, there is no need to apply themselves in their academics.

In conclusion, my experiences at Trinity have helped me immensely to see money and social class in new light. I now see money’s ability to make the college admissions process unfair, to keep its possessors wealthy, and to make its owners elitist and discriminatory towards those of lower classes. I now see the many routes money has to keep its families wealthy, and the abilities it has to separate society.

On a personal level, this raises concern for me, as I feel old familial wealth will eventually prove itself to be a gateway to societal and American mediocrity. Familial wealth allows individuals to be extremely successful without appropriate credentials due to their own familial connections. Although this may seem particularly relevant only to those in the high upper class, I believe its impact will soon be widespread. The apathy of some Trinity students is particularly of concern to me. Individuals who don’t apply themselves to amassing proper knowledge in college are often unsuitable to be in important high-paying positions in America.  However, old money, even now, is allowing the US to put under-qualified persons in high paying, important, and powerful jobs. This could prove increasingly problematic as it could cause a significant America stagnation. If the wealthy continues to put under qualified individuals in important positions, which it will, America will begin to produce mediocre results in many fields. The negative repercussions of this are endless. With America being known for its extremely innovative economy, a lack of innovation could lead to America’s impact and power decreasing on a global scale. Additionally, with global economies being so intertwined, if America begins to consistently produce mediocre goods and services, it could prove disastrous for the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, however, I don’t see the attitudes of the wealthy changing anytime soon. Money constantly boosts egos, and I feel this kind of egoism will prove as a barrier to the wealthy being driven to excel in whatever field they are pre-destined to be in.

Regardless, I feel it necessary to state my own opinions as to what can be done to better the bleak outlook I’ve presented. By no means am I an expert on the matter, but in this context it seems appropriate to share what I feel can be done. This situation is no different than any other in that education is key. I would suggest our nation do its best to expose wealthy children to the prevalence of the discriminatory dynamic that is taking place in the US, and work on achieving the most possible socio-economic diversity in all lower education schools in America. It’s possible that through this the upper class could lessen its alienating ways and create a better social dynamic. This being said, I don’t know if this would more evenly disperse the wealth, as I believe this to be an implausible immediate goal, but it could definitely lessen the tension between classes.

The old wealth of America is dismantling the American Dream, and remodeling the meritocracy for which America has so long been known. It’s an extremely relevant issue at this time, and it must be properly acknowledged and addressed.


Stevens, Mitchell L., and EBSCOhost. Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.

Interview Essay

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Color and Money From the Eyes of the Class of 2016

The perceptions and divides based on social class and race at Trinity College are a very relevant topic. In our seminar, Color and Money, we have done a number of exercises and readings to be able to more properly understand these issues. Most recently, we interviewed a group of sophomores regarding these topics. From these interviews, I was able to identify a few fascinating trends of student perception of race and social class at our college. Additionally, a few readings from our seminar, namely works by Hamilton and Armstrong, and Beverly Tatum, allow us to pinpoint our interviewees’ differences in recognition of relative familial wealth, and blatant understating of the significance of race 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.

The most striking trend that I found was that students on financial aid were significantly more likely to have an understanding of their familial wealth than those not on financial aid. I was able to determine this by reading each interview thoroughly and searching for any statements that each individual made that would contradict their answering of the question “How would you describe your social class?”. For example, one individual, Juan, stated that in terms of socio-economic status, he was “right in the middle”, but that his parents made “a little over $100,000” a year (Juan, p.4). Considering the average household income in the US was around $50,000 in 2011, we would consider this individual to have poor recognition of relative familial wealth. Individuals who stated nothing that could potentially contradict their response to the above question were considered to have recognition of their family’s wealth. Statistically, I found that 9 out of 10 students on financial aid had seemingly good knowledge of their family’s wealth, while only 4 out of 8 students not on financial aid appeared to have this same knowledge. This suggests that wealthy students are more likely to be unaware of their relative wealth than socio-economically less fortunate students. Hamilton and Armstrong offer some evidence as to why this may be. Their book, Paying For the Party, offers an in-depth look as to how socio-economic status can affect collegiate success. The authors state, “…the college experience systematically disadvantages all but the most affluent — and even some of these students.” (Hamilton & Armstrong, p. 3). This quote appears to be significantly more relevant to less affluent students than those of a higher class. Additionally, this systematic disadvantage that college creates could lead those who come from lower income backgrounds to be more aware of their social class than those who don’t, as it could have a potentially dangerous effect on their college and post-graduate success. For example, a wealthy student’s actions may be unchanged given the above knowledge, as whatever college path they decide to take they will be advantaged in greatly. However, for lower income students, knowledge like this may make them act in a different way, and therefore they would find this information valuable. The fact that this information has a greater impact on the lives of lower income students could explain why in our study they had greater knowledge of their individual socio-economic status. Also, it appears that a student’s time at Trinity could skew their own perceptions of social class, which could also be attributed to social and structural inequalities that are also described in Hamilton and Armstrongs’ book. One student even went as far as stating his social class in “terms of trinity” (Jim, p. 27). This, however appeared to have a greater effect on those of the higher classes than on those of the lower classes. This could be accredited to the fact that it would feel better for those not on financial aid to compare their own wealth to the average wealth at Trinity, as they would be around the average level, than those who were on financial aid who would more than likely be comparatively very poor and thus would seek out their actual national socio-economic status. These findings, interestingly enough, seem to be pretty unaffected by race. From the same sample, 7 out of 10 non-white students appeared aware of their socioeconomic status, and 6 out of 8 white students seemed aware. This shows the power that socioeconomic status can have on perceptions and awareness of worldly surroundings. Students appear to be far more likely to understand their relative wealth if they come from a less wealthy background regardless of race. The collegiate system and familial wealth appear to have a major effect on how an individual’s own wealth is perceived.

The second significant trend I noticed was that in most instances, both students of color and white students seemed to voice that race and separation by race are not particularly prominent problems at Trinity College. Trinity is a school with a history of racism and segregation; therefore this lack of recognition for these problems is surprising. Even recently, a Trinity student published an article discussing the extent of these issues at the college: “One of the most prevalent problems on this campus is racism, which has plagued this campus since its inception in 1823” (Real Hartford). However, when students were asked about the impacts that race has had on their daily lives at Trinity College, and their change of awareness of their race since coming to Trinity, their tone often became more passive, and they seemed to approach the questions as if they weren’t significant. For example, one student interviewed, Andres, stated, “race most likely is a dividing factor in some respects” (Andres, p.13). The depth and significance of the way this is phrased is overwhelming. Andres goes on to say that he sees people sticking together that are of the same race, so his choice in wording definitely shows that he is underplaying the significance of the subject. He doesn’t state it in certainty, although he knows it to be true, and he states that it may only be relevant in some respects in an attempt to lessen its implications. Andres and many other students could’ve selected this sort of tone and phrasing for a number of reasons. Beverly Tatum’s Racial Identity Development Theory helps us to better understand why this may be. Tatum’s theory describes a specific set of stages for Racial Identity Development for Whites, and another separate group of stages for Blacks. Since, there is no specific set of stages for other minorities like Hispanics and Asian’s, we must assume that their path would be more similar to Black’s, as they both too would experience the racism and hardships that comes with being a minority. For the Black side of Racial Identity development, there are two stages that could potentially yield the results of understating the significance of race like Andres and many other Non-Whites did. The immersion/emmersion stage where Blacks see “White people as simply irrelevant”(Tatum, p. 76), and the Internalization stage, where Blacks develop a positive sense of self can help to explain this (Tatum, p.76). If an individual were in the immersion/emmersion stage, he or she might feel that white people and their racism simply didn’t matter and therefore may downplay any racism seen or experienced, in their interview. Similarly if an individual were in the internalization stage, they may be so comfortable with themselves they may see the racism as insignificant and not discuss it. On the other side of the spectrum, White’s similarly downplayed the significance of race. Serafino, for example, stated that he “doesn’t think it has that much of an influence”, and people simply “gravitate toward people of their own background or ethnicity” (Serafino, P. 34). Serafino made no attempt to acknowledge the racism and separation that is prominent at the school. For Whites, these kinds of reactions may be explained by two stages: the disintegration stage and the pseudo-independent stage. In the disintegration stage an individual may “reject and ignore racism on a personal level” (Tatum, p. 96). In the Pseudo-independent stage, an individual may feel guilty for his or her own racial identity (Tatum, p.106). If a white person were in the disintegration stage they may simply ignore the racism they see, and if they were in the Pseudo-independent stage they may simply feel to guilty to acknowledge the racism. Tatum’s theory allows us to understand this phenomenon of lack of acknowledgment For all this evidence, however, it must be considered that an individual may just not want to talk about a controversial subject due to the fact that it may be awkward and taboo. However, the patterns in verbiage that are consistent with many interviewees’ make it appear likely that it is more related to their own perceptions of race. In conclusion, if a white person were in the disintegration stage they may simply ignore the racism they see, and if they were in the Pseudo-independent stage they may simply feel to guilty to acknowledge the racism. Tatum’s theory allows us to understand this phenomenon of lack of acknowledgment for racism at Trinity College.

The overwhelming relevance of findings like these is undeniable. We are living in a time where the American Dream is being questioned, and social change is being called for around it. Patterns like the ones presented in this essay allow us to gauge the impact of heated issues like race and social class and provide some insight as to what fuels these problems. It is important to note however that a sample of only 18 interviewees is not nearly enough to infer any of our findings on the entire student body at Trinity. This should simply be a means to raise awareness as to the potential of some of these issues.

The trends and patterns seen in this group of interviews were striking and fascinating. They show us the impact that various factors can have in our own views and actions regarding race and class. It’s important to gauge and understand these patterns, as they can have a great impact on how we live our own lives. They allow us to see the factors that can cause good social understanding and social action and can potentially influence the choices we make and the societal truths that we wish to acknowledge.




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

Armstrong, Elizabeth A, and Laura T Hamilton. Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality. N. p., 2013. Print.

US Census Bureau, Data Integration Division. “Income.” N. p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013

Provost, Kerri. “Real Hartford » Trinity Student Offers Suggestions for Bridging Town-Gown Chasm.” Real Hartford RSS. Real Hartford, 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.



Analysis of Brian Allen

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Analysis of Brian AllenScreen Shot 2013-10-18 at 12.07.22 AM

Brian Allen, from the 1986 film, Skin Deep, appears to be at a very interesting place with his racial identity. He doesn’t exemplify strong hate towards the white race, acknowledges that not all white people are racist, and states that he has no problem having friendships with white people. However, at the same, Brian seems to be upset with the system, which he feels has made blacks be viewed as lesser than whites. Brian states, “If it ever came down to a choice between being black or spreading out I’d stick with my own people” (Reid et al, 18:30.). This paired with the statement made that “we all gonna work together or we gonna die” (Reid et al, 48:15), shows that Brian displays signs of being in both an immersion phase and an internalization phase in his racial identity development. Author Beverly Tatum describes the immersion phase in her book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: “In many ways, the person at the immersion/emersion phase is unlearning the internalized sterotypes about his or her own group and is redefining a positive sense of self” (Tatum, p.76). Brian shows his positive sense of self by stating he would much rather stick with his people if there were ever separation. Tatum then explains the internalization stage by saying a person “is willing to establish meaningful relationships across group boundaries” (Tatum, p.76). Brian demonstrates this behavior by saying he wants to work together with white people and he has had relationships with some white people at his school (Reid et al, 18:00). All in all, Brian Allen is a fascinating character in a interesting developmental stage with his racial identity.




Reid, Frances et al. Skin deep. Berkeley, CA: Iris Films, 1995. Film.

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


Class Consciousness in the College Admissions Process

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 Class Matters

This essay was assigned to be written from the perspective of a (choose one: Class matters) advocate, and does not necessarily represent the views of the author.


Over the past few weeks, our first year seminar class, Color and Money, carried out a mock admissions activity for which we acted as a group of admissions officers for a fictional school called The College. At the end of this activity, we selected candidates for admission, and eventually reached a group of students who would enroll in The College next year. Although our class’s admissions process was legal, it did not result in the best possible class of incoming freshman due to a lack of socioeconomic diversity and a minimal financial aid budget. Socioeconomic diversity would prove beneficial to The College and The United States for a number of reasons, and even with The College’s current financial aid budget, it is very capable of admitting a more socioeconomically diverse class.

During the deliberation process, my classmates would often bring up that we only had $70,000 to spend on financial aid for candidates. Because of this, we would often admit wealthy students who were comparable but still less qualified than other less wealthy students on the basis that they needed less financial aid. For example, our class chose to accept applicant Jazmine Hope-Martin, before choosing to accept applicants Rosa Martinez, and Angelica Parker, although both Angelica and Rosa had been ranked higher than Jazmine in terms of merit in previous rounds. Jazmine, however, posed a cost $25,000 less than Angelica and around $30,000 less than Rosa, and this made Jazmine the most sought after applicant of the three (Decision Day). This was all legal, as we had a financial aid budget to meet, and we were trying to use the money as best as possible, but it did take away from our ability to create the best class possible.

The most obvious way to create a more socioeconomically diverse class would be to increase the financial aid budget, however even with the current budget, The College is very able to create more socioeconomic diversity. To take steps toward creating a more socioeconomically diverse class, The College has a few strong options even with its current financial aid budget. Firstly, The College could choose to give diversity points to socioeconomically less fortunate candidates in the same way diversity points are awarded to applicants of minority races. During the admissions process, our class decided to give points for a candidate if we felt he or she would add to The College’s diversity. However, looking at our 4th round review sheet, no points were ever granted based solely on the low socioeconomic status of an applicant (4th round). By being awarded points for being of lower socioeconomic standing, poorer candidates would get higher admissions scores, and thus would be more likely to gain admittance to The College. Additionally, The College could distribute its financial aid budget more intelligently. To admit as many non-wealthy applicants as possible, The College could search for a sort of financial aid sweet spot. For example, instead of admitting a single applicant who requires full financial aid, it could admit two who require half financial aid. This would produce a more socioeconomically diverse environment by distributing it among many relatively poor students rather than a smaller number of extremely poor students. Also to compensate for the fact that no students requiring full financial aid would be admitted with this plan, the college could save spots for a select few exceptional students who require full financial aid.

The College should choose to address the lack of socioeconomic diversity, which is inevitable in its classes to come. The way the current system works is very unfair in favoring the wealthy, and it would prove advantageous to admit more non-wealthy students for a multitude of reasons.

The system that is used in the vast majority of America’s colleges for admission, The College included, is portrayed as a meritocracy (Stevens). This means that admission is ‘merit based’, and the applicants who display the greatest distinction are the ones who will be admitted. However, affluent applicants are much more equipped to meet these merits that colleges evaluate than lower class applicants. Mitchell L. Stevens describes this issue in depth in his study, Creating a Class: “Keenly aware of the terms of elite college admission, privileged parents do everything in their power to make their children into ideal applicants. They pay for academically excellent high schools. They shower their children with books and field trips and lots of adult attention….. In the process of doing all of this, affluent families fashion an entire way of life organized around the production of measurable virtue in children” (Stevens p.20). Stevens describes the impact that gaining admission to a prestigious college has on the child raising process in America. He also states the pricey expenditures that the wealthy make to help their children meet admissions requirements. The poor however are less capable of making these kinds of expenditures, as they do not have the same kind of income level as the wealthy. Class Consciousness in The College’s admissions process could potentially correct this discrepancy by recognizing that lower income applicants are less capable of meeting these merit based requirements and awarding them admissions points due to this fact.

Another benefit being class conscious in The Colleges admissions process could have is that it could help to diminish the lack of upward social mobility in the US. America used to be thought of as a land of opportunity, and a land where with hard work the poor could one day become rich. However, in a recent study conducted by Miles Corak with the World Bank, The United States was ranked lower in social mobility than neighbor Canada. Although, there are many factors contributing to this low social mobility, college’s uncanny favoritism towards the wealthy definitely plays a role (Greenstone et al.). A 2008 Haskins study showed that of children born in the lowest quintile of wealth, those who obtained a college degree were 3 to 4 times as likely to become upper class (4th and 5th quintile) than those who did not get a college degree (Greenstone et al.). Acknowledging class in the admissions process could help to increase social mobility in the United States by giving poor individuals an opportunity to earn a college degree, and thus the ability to move up in socioeconomic status. This would prove very beneficial to the United States, as there is a correlation between nations with high social mobility and nations that exemplify general citizen happiness (Forbes). Although many may feel that it is the government’s job to correct its nation’s lack of social mobility, with the value of a college degree in today’s world, and how much it improves the likelihood of upward social mobility, Colleges also must make changes for this problem to get fixed.

A last reason as to why The College should choose to address its lack of socioeconomic diversity is that it would prove beneficial for The College itself. A main goal of many colleges is to prepare its students for the so-called real world. One way to do this would be to create an environment similar to the real world, and include socioeconomic diversity. This would make the wealthy students more aware of the poverty that exists in the country, and vise versa for the poor students. Although it may turn wealthy classist families away from The College, it would produce a more interesting and more realistic atmosphere and this probably would not have a significant effect on the prestige or perception of The College. Additionally, it would be more beneficial for The College to admit more students from the lower class because the lower class is growing. A poll conducted by Pew Research showed a jump from 25% of Americans identifying themselves as poor in 2008 to 32% in 2012 (“America’s Middle Class Shrinks Further. Now, Blacks And Whites Equally Broke”). With this rapid growth of the lower class, if The College wants to maintain it’s strong applicant pool, it must appeal to the lower class. An obvious way to do this would be to admit more lower class applicants now. If more lower class applicants are attending The College it would set the tone for applicant pools to come. Although some may say that these statistics aren’t truly telling due to the economic recession that started in 2008, the little upward social mobility in America, and the increasing size of the lower class makes for an inevitably large lower class in the future.

The College must address its lack of socioeconomic diversity in its admission process and set an example for the rest of America’s higher education institutions to follow. The people of the nation have called for change and The College has nothing to do but respond accordingly. A 2005 New York Times poll showed that 84% of respondents in a nationwide survey favored programs that allowed low-income individuals to get ahead regardless of race, gender or ethnicity (New York Times). In conclusion, with the relevance of class in the United States today, and the countless benefits that using class as a criteria for admission presents, The College should adopt a class-conscious admissions office and work to create more socioeconomically diverse classes in the future.



@crobmatthews, Christopher Matthews. “America’s Productivity Problem.” Time. business.time.com. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

Stevens, Mitchell L. Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.

“Happy Country=Social Mobility?” Forbes. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Deparle, Jason. “Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs.” The New York Times 4 Jan. 2012. NYTimes.com. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Greenstone, Michael et al. “Thirteen Economic Facts About Social Mobility and the Role of Education.” The Brookings Institution. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

4th round review, Color and Money Admissions Simulation Data, Trinity College, Fall 2013, http://commons.trincoll.edu/colorandmoney.  Web. 29 Sept. 2013

“How Class Works.” New York Times. N.p., 15 May 2005. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Decision Day, Color and Money Admissions Simulation Data, Trinity College, Fall 2013, http://commons.trincoll.edu/colorandmoney.  Web. 29 Sept. 2013

“America’s Middle Class Shrinks Further. Now, Blacks And Whites Equally Broke.” Forbes. Web. 4 Oct. 2013.