Reflective Change Final Essay

Posted on

Julia Jiampietro

Color and Money FYSM

Reflection Essay


When I graduated from my small town high school in suburban New York, I graduated with not one black student in my class.  Even more, there was not one black student in my entire high school on the day I graduated.  As you can imagine, my schooling experience growing up thus was not very racially diverse.  Not to say I was ignorant of race issues and problems in todays America, but coming to Trinity and in particular being in the freshman the seminar Color and Money has helped to open my eyes even more so on the topics of systematic inequality in America with regards to both race and social class, and what it means for America’s youth today.

Casually talking to some guys who live on my hall was when I had a revelation about my privilege as a blond, white girl that I had never been able to experience in my high school due to the lack of diversity.  These students were freshman, athletes, and Trinity students.  They were also black.   They were pretty upset over something that had happened earlier that day- a campus safety guard had approached the friends (3 of them) and asked them if they went to Trinity.   One of them, recanting the story, said “I was actually wearing Trinity sweatpants when this guy asked us this.  Like seriously?”  They were annoyed but had made it into somewhat of a joke, a joke about how blatantly stereotyped they were because they were black- and this wasn’t the first time a situation like that had happened to them.   After this experience, and after reading Adolfo Abreu’s letter in our seminar discussing this exact problem, I started to understand in a more intense way what systematic inequality was and exactly how present white privilege was.   I realized I will never be asked if I am a Trinity student because of the color of my skin, I will never have to justify why I am on a campus I paid to go to.   Further more, I will most likely never be subjected to things like the “stop and frisk” policy in New York (where I live) where police can search anyone appearing “suspicious”, I will probably continue my record of never being “randomly selected” to be searched at an airport, but ultimately I will never have to prove something about myself to other people because of the color of my skin.  I know these examples are particularly specific, but when I was trying to understand what exactly “white privilege” meant, specific things like this kept jumping out to me.  Not only were my views on racial inequality expanded through my time at Trinity and through our seminar, but my understanding on class structure  in America were extremely broadened.

If my hometown was racially un- diverse, the economic diversity in my hometown was even worse. Almost every year the graduation rate was 100%, with the college matriculation rate differing from 99% to 100% every few years.  “Why was this?” I always wondered. I wasn’t ignorant enough to think that it was because the students attending my school were somehow smarter then the high school the town over, who had a 40% graduation rate and an even lower college matriculation rate.  After reading “Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality” by Laura Armstrong and Elizabeth Hamilton, it suddenly became very clear how this inequality was possible.  They talk about how those students from an upper class have “significant family resources and connections — which set them up for jobs after graduation, regardless of credentials — allow them to take easy majors and spend as much time if not more drinking as they do studying. It also deters those on the “mobility pathway,” as those low-income students seeking entry into the middle class are both poorly supported and distracted by the party framework.”

As I probably don’t need to point out, Trinity is one of the most expensive liberal arts colleges in the United States, with a tuition upwards of 60,000 dollars- so I always knew I was extremely lucky to not have worry about paying my tuition, I knew I was extremely lucky that I wouldn’t be in thousands of dollars of debt from student loans when I graduated.  I knew all of this coming into Trinity but it never quite hit home the way it did until I saw firsthand how real this inequality was and how much it could affect ones path in life.  One of my good friends, a sophomore here at Trinity, was by no means lower class.  I would probably classify her as middle class, maybe even middle upper class by America’s standards.  Her freshman year her financial situation was very similar- if not the same- as mine; or in other words she did not have to be on financial aid and her family took care of the tuition.  Preparing to come into her sophomore year, things couldn’t have looked better she was excited to see all of her school friends and the beginning of the year was always so fun, so many parties and so much to do.  It then came as a huge shock to her when her parents informed her that- for whatever reason- they could no longer afford to pay her full tuition and she would have to take out student loans and attempt to pay at least 15,000 of each semester of her tuition.   I know that on the scale of student loans, many people have it way worse- but what sat with me and really gave me a different perspective was the very real shift of the attitude of someone who didn’t have any financial worries when it came to school versus someone who suddenly has so much invested.  Her anxiety shot through the roof- suddenly the “partying” aspect of the school year did not matter so much to her anymore, and all of her focus went into trying to figure out how she would afford to pay off this debt.  For me, this really sat with me because it was around the same our seminar was reading “Paying for the Party” and it was just like a first hand account of what they describe in the book.

Ultimately what this seminar has taught me is how to understand systematic inequality and how ones privilege or lack there of can have a very real and have a very big impact on almost everything we experience in life.   The only way to move forward as a society and to move past these inequalities is to acknowledge they exist and work to learn more and more about what they mean, which is what we have done this year in our seminar through our readings and discussions.

Interview Analysis Essay

Posted on

1) Does the author present a clear and focused argument or thesis statement in the introduction?  Does it respond to the assignment?


2) Is the author’s reasoning persuasive and well developed?  Are the claims supported with appropriate evidence?  Are counter-arguments fully considered?


3) Is the essay well organized with smooth transitions between focused paragraphs? Does it include sufficient background for audiences unfamiliar with the topic?


4) Does the author choose precise and meaningful wording, with fluent syntax and correct grammar and spelling?


5) Does the author cite sources in a standard academic format (or, if applicable, in the format designated by the instructor) so that readers may easily locate them?


6) Does the essay inspire the reader to think about the topic in a new way?


Through different social scientists and authors such as Beverly Tatum, Stacey Lee, Omi & Winant, and Hamilton & Armstrong we are better able to try and understand race and social class in today’s age through their different perspectives and theories.  In our seminar color and money, we further investigated the role race and social class play on a smaller scale, in particular on a college campus, or in this case- Trinity College. We did this through in depth anonymous interviews with randomly selected sophomores, with candid questions about the volunteers perspective on their time at Trinity.  In turn we were provided with not only substantial data to support the theories we have studied throughout the year, but new quantitative and qualitative data that allowed us to also create our own theories and interpretations based on the interviews as a whole.  Ultimately we gathered that most students noticed both social class and race and how they had strong impacts on Trinity campus, but the way in which the students noticed these two characteristics had a lot to do with their differing races and social classes.

Many would think that students on financial aid were more likely to be aware of their social class and the impact it had at Trinity and on them. However, i surprisingly found that mostly all of the students, regardless of financial aid, had at least some awareness of the role that their and others social class played in everyday life. Out of the 18 interviews conducted, 15 of the students noted that they became more aware of their social class since coming to Trinity and an almost equivalent number noted that their social class had an impact on their life at Trinity. Luisa, who described herself as “upper-middle class” noted “Trinity’s a lot more divided um like with social, so social classes divide like the groups of trinity which is interesting. Yea, I feel like I’ve like I guess I’ve seen where I fit socially or like economically amongst like the world or like the people at trinity.” (Luisa, 8).  On the other end of the spectrum, Andres, a student who described himself as “mostly… poor” had similar sentiments in regards to becoming aware of social class as Trinity- “Coming to Trinity obviously [I saw] a big difference between…the social classes…you clearly see people who are in a higher class, clearly see people who are in a lower class, and you sorta just tell the difference of people that there are there.” (Andres, 11).   Overall the trend that appeared from most of the students, regardless of their socio economic status, was that they took note of and saw the distinction between the different classes at Trinity.

Similar to class awareness,  11 out of the 17 interviewees also had a high perception of the role race plays at Trinity college. However, a trend i noticed was that those students who identified as non white had more of a perception of how race played a role personally in their lives, while the white students spoke more about how they understood race in relation to how it played a role in the minority students lives. Said Juan, a hispanic student- “I guess in two aspects, one is an oppressive force and another one is kind of like a really empowering one. Though, I think contrary to what some people may believe, some of that oppression has come from a few of the minorities on campus.” (Juan, 6).  Here Juan is noting how racism and his race has affected his live in multiple ways, giving him both the feeling of oppression and empowerment.   However, Abby, a white student noted, “Uh yeah, like I think my freshman year my seminar was called race and class. Um, so (…) you know the entire class was about like how people would define their race. Um, and how it was very difficult for a lot of people to define their race. So I think I’m definitely more aware of it because of that.” [6:26.03] (Abby, 39). Serafino, a white male talking about his perception of his race at Trinity- “…I think in the same way that coming to Trinity put my social class in perspective, Trinity has also put some of my racial identity in perspective. I wasn’t more aware when I came to Trinity of my ethnicity, but I was aware of [a] different range of ethnicities. Like, where I come from, I live in [a large city], and there are all kinds of people in [that city], but being in a different setting has put my ethnicity in a different perspective, but I’m definitely not more aware of it.” [00:07:29.19]” (Serafino, 34). Both of these students who identify as white noted how they became more aware of their race when coming to Trinity, but less because of how their race affected their lives and instead more being around a wider or different range of racial diversity.  To summarize, the white students tended to see their acknowledgment of race from the perspective of them becoming enlightened in a sense, them seeing how it affected those minorities around them; While the actual minority students tended to see their perception of race from their perspective and how it affected their everyday lives and interactions.

Beverly Tatum’s theory of racial development in “Why are All the Black Kids sitting together” is very evident in these analysis interviews. One of the clearest patterns we can find is that at least three students noticed the racial divide that apparently is clear in Mather dining hall, particularly to non white students. Luisa said, ““…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). The other students who noticed the same divide were also non white. Beverly Tatum would see this as these students being in the encounter stage of racial identity development- The Black kids are sitting together in the cafeteria collectively embodying an oppositional stance (moving away from anything associated with whiteness).   With regards to social class, the novel “Paying for the Party” by Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton’s theories on social class in college do a good job of embodying what some of the interviewies noticed at Trinity College.  Armstrong and Hamilton talk about how college breeds inequality in the classes, giving an inevitable advantage to those of a higher class, and creating an almost seperation and segregation of the different classes, and causing those of the lower classes to become very aware of this.  Said Andre, who i previously mentioned describes himself as lower class and is on financial aid, “It’s just like the way we categorize people. You’re sort of just comparing like, you have all of like the racial people who are most likely lower class just because that’s how it plays out. And then you see all these white people–most likely upper class because that’s how Trinity plays out. Like sixty percent of the school pays full tuition out of pocket, so it’s apparent the school is [long pause] not the normal social class as it is outside in the real world. It would probably be more balanced than the school.” (Andres, 12). Conversely, Michael, a non financial aid student who described himself as upper class showed his privilege when he talks about his unawareness- speaking about his social class- “yeah but it doesn’t really affect me. I just don’t really think about it.” (Michael, 2).

Race and social class both play huge roles in young peoples lives today, and after reading many theories on the matter and also personally exploring these topics ourselves through these interviews, we are able to better understand the impact these have on young adults and on the lives of those around us.



Marks Journey of Racial Development

Posted on

In the documentary Skin Deep, an ethnically and culturally diverse group of college students come together to talk about race in America, and the problem of racism.  Mark, a bright italian american student attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst, talks about his experiences growing up in an almost completely white neighborhood and thus his struggle with understanding and dealing with the issue of race and all that it ensues upon arriving at college.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 5.07.37 PM

In the book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria?” author Beverly Tatum discusses situations like Mark’s and theorizes the different stages of racial development she believes most white people go through. Mark’s situation is a tricky one to place but I believe Tatum would place him as in the “Immersion/emersion” phase, which she describes as past the guilt phase and more into the phase of recognizing “the need to find a more positive self recognition” (Tatum, p. 107).  While Mark does discuss the guilt he initially felt when he realized his white privilege, at the point the documentary was filmed he has decided not to see his everyday experiences in a light of “assumed superiority or inferiority” (Tatum) where he constantly feels white guilt. Instead it seems Mark has acknowledged his privilege and has moved on and is now in a stage of coming to terms with his own ethnic identity and not feeling guilt. When Mark joined a gospel choir that was predominately black, he talks about how he initially felt uncomfortable and starting feeling “white guilt” as Tatum would put it.  However he shows that he has moved on into the immersion stage of racial development when he discusses how he got over these feelings and started to just see his experiences with race/ in the choir through a new light. “After a while I realized… Its just getting to sing, doing something i like to do with other people that are different then me but just like to do the same thing”(Skin Deep, Mark, 13:30).


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.

The Importance of Merit Only Admissions

Posted on

College Admissions is no simple thing. From considering diversity, to academic accomplishments, to yield rate, among other influencing factors, the process of admitting students into college in todays world is no easy task. In our simulation, we worked as group to create an incoming class of 3 admitted students to the best of our abilities whilst still considering all the factors i just mentioned; on top of handling a 70,000 dollar financial aid (Color & Money, The College Simulation)  budget which we had to divvy out through our own discretion. Ultimately, we admitted students almost entirely based on who possessed the highest levels of merit in their applications, as we should have considering that merit is what matters most when admitting a student in an esteemed college. While diversity is an important factor in creating collegiate communities, admissions itself should be based on a students capabilities and the level to which they worked to achieve the right to be accepted to The College (or any established college). The color of ones skin does not determine the level of intelligence they possess, thus any student of any background or race is capable of achieving high merit in some form if they really set their mind to it. Ripping away the dreams of college acceptance from a capable hard working student with high merit just because they don’t meet the definition of “underrepresented minority” as presented by our government today is not only reprehensible but should be illegal- which is why all college admissions should be “color- blind” and based solely on the merit of the applicants presented.

The legality of college admissions becomes tricky when it come down to diversity and how to ensure a diverse student body.  As getting into college has become an increasingly difficult feat in recent years, many court cases have become important in determining the legality of policies such as affirmative action, and other race based admissions processes.  Affirmative action has been present for many years in the United States college admissions system in an attempt to take factors such as  “race, color, or national origin”  into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group “in areas of employment, education, and business” (National Archives, 1989).  However this policy came into question in 2003 in the supreme court case “Gratz v. Bollinger” addressing the University of Michigan’s take on the affirmative action policy in which they automatically awarded 20 points to underrepresented minorities.  In a 6-3 decision, the court decided, “”predetermined point allocations…. ensures that the diversity contributions of applicants cannot be individually assessed” and was therefore “unconstitutional” (Gratz V. Bollinger, 2003).  In other words, admissions offices could not use “quotas” in admitting minority  students, but they could consider ones ethnicity as a plus when considering their application.  We took this case -among others- to heart when doing our simulation, making sure that all of our race considerations were legal and didn’t use quotas.  Instead we looked for students who were qualified and hard working, those students who, regardless of their race, had put a monumental effort into achieving high levels of merit- whether it be through academics, athletics, extracurriculars, good character and so on. We made sure to avoid illegal actions such as quotas by making the first round of cuts almost entirely based on merit, using a point system to weed out those who had a lower academic standing and did not have the academic quality to be admitted to The College (Round 5 spreadsheet). By doing this, we were left with a list of the students with the highest levels of merit, and from there we were able to discuss how their ethnicity may play a part in their acceptance,  but would in no way a defining factor.

In doing our simulation, as i mentioned, we did have a point system, however not directly based on race.  Instead, we, in a sense used a loophole, by making our point system not directly based on race but instead based on the level of a students “diversity” which could mean any number of things (Round 4 spreadsheet, Diversity column).  This allowed us to legally consider all applicants while still considering their race and the diversity that it may bring to The College as a factor in admissions.  Moreover we, rightfully so, barely even considered the race of an applicant on any sort of major scale, only allocating a max of three points (out of a scale of 23) to diversity, and we didn’t really address it at any other point in our admissions process. This is important because admissions should be more focused on a student’s ability to succeed than on their ethnicity.  To hold a student of color to a lower standard than to say  that  a Caucasian one, is not only insulting but also discriminatory. The use of affirmative action does this by automatically giving “minority” students an advantage over those of “non- minority” backgrounds, regardless of class or socio-economic factors (National Archives, 1989).  a Every applicant is aware, when writing their application, that it is their merit which they will be judged on- and so it is only fair if we stay true to this and judge our applicants based on the merit which they have presented us with.

As Peter Thiel and David Sacks, two Stanford alumni, write, “Originally conceived as a means to redress discrimination, racial preferences have instead promoted it. And rather than fostering harmony and integration, preferences have divided the campus. In no other area of public life is there a greater disparity between the rhetoric of preferences and the reality” (Sacks, Thiel, 2013). They suggest that merit isn’t solely based on test scores or GPA’s, but also extracurriculars in athletics, music, and other efforts, “But race and ethnicity (or gender or sexual preference) do not have a place on this list; these are traits, not achievements (Sacks, Thiel, 2013). Our simulation provided us with the best incoming class possible.  Because we based our admissions on merit, as suggested by Thiel and Sacks, when our first couple of choices rejected the offer, our wait list still contained fantastic applicants academically.  Ironically we also ended up with a very diverse class, without even having intended it.  Jazmine Hope-Martin and Daniel Juberi are both minority students ( hispanic and african american) who, with little note to their ethnicity were still able to get into the college based on their academic stature and high merit, both being in the top 20% of their class. (Simulation, Applicant files).  Our color blind system worked extremely well, and could potentially be a good model for how actual college admissions could work.

All well minded students are capable of the same achievement, regardless of their race.  Race Conscious college admissions drive our society backwards, away from the “color blind” society that is desired by so many.  Merit is what makes a student a worthwhile applicant- whether that be through good character, excellent grades or test scores, or outstanding extracurriculars- it doesn’t matter which of these factors ultimately gets a student accepted into college, but it does matter if a student who deserves an accepted spot through their hard work and determination is unfairly denied this opportunity because of an outdated and discriminatory practice such as affirmative action.



Works Cited

“Executive Orders.” Executive Orders. 01 Oct. 2013 <>.


Thiel, Peter, and David Sacks. “The Case Against Affirmative Action.” Stanford Magazine. 01 Oct. 2013 <>.


“Jazmine Hope-Martin.” Simulation Applicant Files, Color & Money seminar at Trinity College, Fall 2013, <>


“Daniel Juberi.”  Simulation Applicant Files, Color & Money seminar at Trinity College, Fall 2013, < >


“Color & Money Admissions Simulation data.” Color and Money Seminar at Trinity College, Fall 2013,<>

“Round 5 Final Admissions Decisions and Managing Yield” Color and Money Seminar at Trinity College, Fall 2013 <>