Reflective Essay

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Reflective Change Essay

Early in the fall of my senior year, people always approached me to ask what college I was planning on attending. When I would tell them Trinity, the first response I would always get was, “In Hartford? That’s a pretty dodgy area” or “That’s the school full of preppy kids and cocaine.” People would say this even if they had never been to Hartford or the campus itself. Before even coming to Trinity, I was exposed to multiple stereotypes about Hartford and Trinity in general. Upon choosing classes for the fall, I decided to try and enroll in the “Color and Money” first year seminar to learn more about the effect of race and class on the admissions process, and by doing so have learned more than I ever thought I would.

The seminar as a whole has made me much more aware of race and social class both at Trinity College and in society. It is upsetting to me that one’s race still plays such a large role in the people he or she spend time with and in how people treat and stereotype each other. All of the readings we analyzed in class made me realize the advantages that still exist for certain races and social classes and it was very troubling to realize how much inequality is present in our society. From high school life, the college process, college life and life in general, inequality and stereotypes exist in each stage of life, and had I not taken this seminar, I probably would still be unaware of the prevalence of inequality in society, and especially on the Trinity College campus. After many classes I left feeling distressed because of the content of our discussions. It is hard to hear about, on our very own campus, that “Campo” pull kids over asking them if they go here and that any criminal act is automatically blamed on the individuals living around the campus. This class has been an eye-opener, and I have begun to pick up on many instances of inequality and hurtful stereotypes being expressed. Listening to student’s accounts of assumptions made has both upset me and, as cliché as it sounds, has given me a drive to seek a positive change and make a conscious effort to treat everyone equally. Overall, I have become much more aware.

Throughout the class, I continued to follow “Trinity Confidential” on Facebook. The more and more discussions we had in class pertaining to race and the inequality that exists on this campus, the more angry I became from some of the posts online. Many of them stereotyped all different races and social classes on campus and it was infuriating to see how judgmental some of the students could be and the assumptions some people make about people based on their social class or race. It was alarming to see that at this stage of one’s life, he or she makes vicious stereotypes against different groups of people, especially at a campus that I thought was much different. These sentiments are clearly reflected in Abreu’s letter discussing racism at Trinity.

All around campus and online, I hear and see the word “locals” used and I see people making assumptions about the rich, the poor, the black, the white and everything in between. Abreu’s letter has made me realize the grievances of the people stereotyped against and it brings to light how many people feel the same way. Not only that, I have also begun to notice some of the trends discussed in Abreu’s letter, such as how white students tend to congregate in Mather, and students of different ethnicities stick together. I agree that if all groups made a conscious effort to get out of his or her comfort zone, then the campus could take a step closer to being a more accepting student body. By being a part of the “Color and Money” seminar, I have a completely new perspective of how people interact on and off campus.

Upon finishing this class, I realize even more so than ever before that I personally have lived a sheltered life, and it is truly shocking to find out how much inequality exists on the Trinity College campus and in society in general. I am much more conscious of the benefits I systematically receive because of the present societal norms and I am also very thankful for the life I have lived thus far and am far more aware of how other races and social classes are treated and stereotyped against. I now make a conscious effort to smile at everyone and to avoid stereotyping anyone. I think I am the type of person who is open to all types of people, so I have always made a point of being friendly to everyone I see around Hartford and on campus. I think that if the whole campus makes an effort to not stereotype each other and to be friendly to one another, the campus would be a much more pleasant place to be on.

Works Cited

Provost, Kerri. “Trinity Student Offers Suggestions for Bridging Town-Gown Chasm.” Web log post. Real Hartford. WordPress, Nov.-Dec. 2013. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

Interview Essay

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Interview Essay

              It is no surprise that many see Trinity College as a private institution full of wealthy, white students. However, by taking a closer look at the students populating the campus, one finds a range of socioeconomic statuses and a variety of races and ethnicities. To get a sense of how students of all different races and economic backgrounds perceive the campus, our “Color and Money” seminar interviewed eighteen students from the sophomore class. Among many of the interviews, racial and socioeconomic barriers were themes that arose frequently. First, non-White students were accustomed to people making assumptions about their race and did not react dramatically to different stereotypes, whereas the remaining white students overreacted in situations. A comparable divide was also seen between those in the minority and majority socioeconomic populations at Trinity because of the different assumptions made about one’s social class. Each of these reactions stem from the countless differences in identity development, which theorists such as Beverly Tatum are able to explain.

In “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” Beverly Tatum explains white racial development and black racial development, and explains each phase the respective individual experiences as part of the development. Tatum pieces together ideas from personal experience to paint a clear picture of how white people and black people develop. By analyzing the interviews, it is clear that many of the students at Trinity College are at different phases of identity development.

Similarly, many interviewees noted that groups of different races tend to congregate, which is a concept examined by Stacey Lee in her work, “Unraveling the ‘Model Minority.’” Through careful observations in a prestigious high school, Lee noticed that students segregate by race. By asking students provocative questions, we were also able to notice a divide between different races and social classes. When asked if people have become more aware of social class and race, a majority of the students in the minority, or the non-white students and students receiving financial aid responded yes, and the White students and financial students typically responded no.

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 closely examining the interviews, it is clear that non-White people have a greater perception of racial barriers than those students who are white at Trinity College. When analyzed to see if the students recognize racial barriers, seven out of ten of non-white students had an awareness of them, whereas only three out of six white students noticed a divide. One of the students by the pseudonym Luisa admitted that she has definitely become more aware of her race while at Trinity. She tells the interviewer, “I’ve been a lot more conscious of my race and it’s weird I guess because I’ve never felt like a true minority before I came to Trinity” (Luisa 10). She also tells the interviewer that as a freshman, she considered joining the La Voz Latina house on campus, but ultimately decided against it because she believed the group was cliquey. By being on campus for just two years, Luisa already feels a wedge between the different races on campus. Andres, another non-white student, also saw a similar trend in racial barriers, specifically pertaining to La Voz Latina and other on-campus organizations. When asked if he has become more aware of his race, Andres tells the interviewer, “Like with some of the…clubs– like LVL [and] MOCA, they make it their job to have a community for kids when they come to Trinity… I go to the events and stuff but, in a sense I feel like they’re harboring the kids a little more than they need to” (Andres 13). Andres, along with other ethnic students, has noticed that Trinity feels obligated to have groups for minority students because Trinity is aware that they may feel excluded. By forming these groups, however, a divide is created between the different ethnicities on campus. Similarly to Lee’s discovery, a majority of the students interviewed noticed that different races segregate themselves from other races. Ten out of fifteen of interviewed students answered yes when asked, “Since coming to Trinity, have you become more aware of your race?” It is clear that many of the non-White students have become more conscious of their race since coming to Trinity, something that the White students have not seemed to notice as much.

Although one may expect that non-White students would react more to seemingly racist acts on campus, our study revealed the opposite.  When asked about assumptions people at Trinity College have made about one’s race, Juan, a non-White student, shared that a certain white student on campus greets him, “hey what’s up brotha” (Juan 4). Juan admitted that he would go along with it, but firmly told the interviewer, “I don’t think that makes him racist though. Cuz for me racism is such a malicious thing… I just feel like he just wanted to fulfill something” (Juan 5). Although one may expect Juan to react aggressively towards this clear act of stereotyping, Juan responded very passively to the situation.

Similarly, when asked about assumptions people have made about his race, Fred, an African American student, told his interviewer that “Campo” has stopped him before. He tells her, “I think people correctly assume that I’m African American. A couple times “Campo” has stopped me because of it … they’ll stop and ask me if I go to school here, questions like that, but it happens rarely” (Fred 23). What many would see as offensive, Fred downplays. Could this be because non-White people have grown accustomed to these offensive stereotypes? Fred is an excellent example of an individual in the internalization stage of racial development described by Tatum. At this point, Tatum asserts that the individual begins to develop a sense of racial pride and security, allowing the individual to establish “meaningful relationships across group boundaries” (Tatum 76). Fred acknowledges that stereotypes have been made and used against him, but is confident in who he is and is able to successfully integrate himself with many different races. Not only did Fred make this occurrence seem insignificant, but Kirsten, an Asian student also downplayed a stereotypical comment made by a comedian.

When Kirsten told the comedian she was from a certain neighborhood, the comedian responded, “oh, you must have money right?” (Kirsten 16). Kirsten continues to tell the interviewer, “he was joking around obviously, but because I was Asian and from [this part of the city] he thought like oh yeah she must have money…but I don’t take offense, I don’t really care about the whole issue, kinda” (Kirsten 16-17).  Again, it is clear that many times students of a minority on campus downplay the stereotypes outwardly stated against them. Ironically, the students of the racial majority tend to act more defensively when he or she feels under attack because of his or her race.

Alice, a white- student who did not receive financial aid upon coming to Trinity, recounts an incident in a certain dining hall. She asked the woman working at the cash register if she could check how many bantam bucks were on her card. The woman checked and responded, “yeah um oh you have 15 dollars left, oh your parents came through for you” (Alice 43). Alice continues on to display her reaction. She states to the interviewer, “I was like first of all I can get you fired for that and second of all that is very rude and making a ton of assumptions about like who I am and what I do and don’t work for…” (Kirsten 43). From a comment some may not even think twice about, Alice grew very angry and defensive that the woman working at the cash register supposedly made such assumptions. Although surprising, it is clear that the students of the majority, in both race and social class react more aggressively towards assumptions made by others.

Similarly to the divide between races, it is clear that there is a barrier between the socioeconomic minority, or those students who receive Financial Aid, and the majority, or those who do not receive Financial Aid at Trinity College. It is clear that the minority has become more mindful of their social class ever since coming to Trinity. This differs from the somewhat split responses of becoming more conscious of race at Trinity for both non-white and white students. When asked if he/she has become more aware of one’s respective social class upon coming to Trinity, eight out of eight students on Financial Aid answered that they have become more conscious. Contrary to this statistic, only about half of the students who do not receive Financial Aid have become more aware of their respective social class. Looking at these statistics, it is clear that social class tends to be an area of judgment by students at Trinity College. Many of the students on Financial Aid responded to the question, “has social class been a factor in your daily interactions?” and “what assumptions, if any, have people at Trinity made—correctly or incorrectly—about your social class” by describing the clothes one wears and how this plays a large role in determining a person’s social class. Abe, a student on Financial Aid, describes to the interviewer that, “I usually dress up really nice so people think that I am from the upper level. You can tell like that they think that I am wealthy, which I’m not because of the way I dress…I feel like at Trinity people judge you by the way you dress more than anything” (Abe 45). Abe is not the only student who feels as though the clothes one wears has a big effect on how one’s social class is perceived. Juan, another student who receives Financial Aid from the college describes to his interviewer how “I’ve seen poor people who are of lesser means who are really good looking climb way up the popular ladder at Trinity just because they look good” (Juan 5). On the other hand, the students who do not receive Financial Aid tend to avoid admitting any assumptions made about social class.

When asked the assumptions people at Trinity have made pertaining to social class, Jim, a student who does not receive financial aid responded, “…I mean not much…I mean I never really talked about it…I really I truly can’t know…I…I’m not worried about any [assumptions] that people have made about my social class….” (Jim 27). Jim is not the only student who avoided talking about any assumptions made. Luisa, another student who does not receive financial aid, responded, “uhm, I don’t know, I don’t think people make like outwardly assumptions…I don’t know I feel like people just make like assumptions but like don’t they don’t like outwardly say them…” (Luisa 8). Both Jim and Luisa, and other students who are in the socioeconomic majority avoided delving into detail of assumptions made about social class at Trinity, whereas the students who are on Financial Aid shared many observations that he or she has seen at the College. Those who are on Financial Aid are clearly more open about perceptions made at Trinity pertaining to social class, contrasting those who are not Financial Aid who do not openly admit to perceptions made. Because of the difference of observations between the various social classes at Trinity, a divide is drawn between those on Financial Aid and those who are not.

By carefully analyzing the interviews conducted it is clear that there are certain stereotypes that students have about other students at Trinity, whether pertaining to social class or race. Through the interviews, one can clearly see that students of the majority and minority of socioeconomic status and race pick up on these stereotypes, however, the reaction of the two groups is different. The white students and those not receiving financial aid tended to overreact when exposed to stereotypes against them but tended to avoid admitting that they have any stereotypes themselves. The non-White students and those receiving financial aid, on the other hand, tended to react less aggressively towards the stereotypes and openly talked about perceptions that he or she had witnessed. The interviews highlighted many existing discrepancies in the student body that bring to light certain stereotypes and an evident divide on the campus.

Works Cited

Lee, Stacey J. Unraveling the “Model Minority” Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth. New York: Teachers College, 1996. Print.

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” New York: Basic, 2003. Print.



Exercise: Tatum and Skin Deep

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Tammy trying to tell her peers that she is an individual and she does not like when people judge her based on her skin color, when she actively tries to not judge people based on theirs.

Growing up, Tammy never really considered the idea of racism. She grew up in a small neighborhood, the majority of people being white. Similarly to the “Contact” stage defined by Tatum as having the feeling of “I’m just normal” in her work, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, it was typical for Tammy to be surrounded by white people as a child and she was barely exposed to cultural and racial differences until she arrived at college (Tatum 93). In the beginning of the documentary, she openly admits, “I never really experienced how other people lived” confirming the idea that although she lived in an all white neighborhood, she was aware of her non-diverse childhood (Skin Deep 8:25). Despite her homogeneous upbringing, Tammy has been open to all cultures and races during her college experience and thus would be placed somewhere in the pseudo-independent stage by Tatum. She has become more aware of surrounding racism and the societal advantages she, as a white person, has. With contrasting views of her parents, she is actively trying change and open herself up to knew and at times, uncomfortable situations and ideas. During the final discussion, she states firmly to the group, “I’m an individual and I refuse to validate anyone who wants to judge me on the basis of my skin color,” displaying her openness to all different races and cultures (Skin Deep 27:44). That being said, Tammy struggles with taking action against the undeniable racism in American society and with the guilt that there is such advantages (Tatum 106). Tatum describes a person at this stage as having a “desire to escape” this guilt “by associating with people of color,” which is what Tammy attempts to do during the retreat with all of the different college students (Tatum 106).

Works Cited

Skin Deep. By Frances Reid, Sharon Wood, Sarah Cahill, Michael Chin, and Stephen McCarthy. Iris Films, 1995. Videocassette.

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? New York: Basic, 1999. Print.

Persuasive Essay Seminar

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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.

A Second Look at the Winning Race

Our nation claims to be one of racial equality, but giving students a benefit in the admissions process for higher education institutions based on one’s race is purely unequal. College and University admissions should be based off of merit: those students who have the capability to succeed both inside and outside the classroom. In no way should merit pertain to the color of one’s skin or the money one has. However, these two factors have become an overwhelmingly large part of the admissions process and specifically a significant part of a simulation done for an elite, private institution.

Although one may argue that the admissions system used at The College was legal, due to some doubt, removal of a diversity rating used would result in a completely legal and fair system. By enacting a merit based plan and adapting a percentage plan, accepting students based on their ranking in their class, the College would still be able to take into account racial and socioeconomic differences without explicitly doing so when looking at the applicants in the office, and by doing so creating equal educational opportunities for all students.

In the classes stimulation, the decisions of the admissions officers seemed to have resulted in an outcome promoting equal educational opportunity. During these decisions, the officers considered the most qualified students who could pay for the tuition as well as those who were not as socioeconomically well off. However, those who were a certain race or could afford more of the tuition were looked at more closely, creating an unequal playing ground for all applicants. The College admissions should have had a more color- blind process. By having a “race blind” admissions process, students are judged based on merit, accepting the most prestigious and academically qualified students.

During the simulation, students of a race other than Caucasian were looked at with a different eye than those students who were white. Because these students were given an advantage, the admissions process was not completely fair, and could be argued as either legal or illegal. Students were rated on a scale of 1-3 based on diversity as part of a grand total rating, giving ethnic students an upper edge. This idea of giving students a higher rating in the admissions process of higher educational institutions has been brought to the attention of the courts before and schools such as University of Michigan and University of California Berkeley have been brought under public eye because of race conscious practices. In each case, a student was denied access the university and challenged that the admissions favored those of unique ethnic and racial backgrounds. In the Michigan case, the court ruled that the admissions office cannot give students of certain races extra points, but can make diversity a goal for the incoming class (Gratz v. Bollinger). Since the term “diversity” was not specifically defined in the simulation, it is hard to decide whether it is legal or illegal, thus it should be removed from the system all together.

The point of a higher education institution is education itself, therefore the students who are most academically fit deserve admissions, which should have nothing to do with race. As Leslie Killgore states, “A student-centric perspective defines college as both reward and opportunity for students of high ability” and that “admission to elite colleges is awarded to students as a function of their increasingly meritorious achievements” (Killgore 470). Killgore believes that admissions should look past race and admit students based on merit and ability, which is what the College’s admissions should have done when choosing who to admit and waitlist in the simulation. The idea behind race- neutral admissions is taking into account other aspects beside race, which may in turn benefit those who are racially diverse, but does not “exclude” those who are not (Coleman 4).

Although nothing was done illegally when considering financial aid and admission into the College, there are ways in which the decision was made unfairly, thus leading to unequal educational opportunities. On multiple occasions, students who were deserving of a spot in the College were not given the chance because of the amount of financial aid need. After admitting the first student, Caitlin Quinn, the number one applicant and a free student for the college, the admissions officers began to look for a second and third possibility. Applicants such as Rosa Martinez and Paula Nunes were initially overlooked because of the amount of financial aid they would need, 47740 dollars and 52219 dollars respectively (“4th Round Review”). Both applicants displayed outstanding academics and extracurricular activities and were ranked numbers three and five respectively out of all of the applicants in the simulation. As a result of the admissions officers choosing to skip over Rosa and Paula, Jazmine Hope- Martin and Daniel Juberi were offered a spot (“4th Round Review).

Despite the discrepancies and at times, unfair decisions, the class itself is diverse both socioeconomically and racially, however, the admissions office did not always provide the students with equal educational opportunities. A student, no matter what race or ethnicity, should be offered admissions regardless of aid need, solely based on merit. After admitting Caitlin Quinn, the admissions officers began to jump around the ranking list because of the amount of financial aid need a student needed or because of the goal of diversity, whether or not the student had a good resume. After brushing over Rosa Martinez and Paula Nunes, the officers chose Jazmine Hope- Martin solely because she needed the least amount of final aid out of herself, Paula and Rosa and because she would be awarded the merit scholarship based on her standardized test score, making her financial aid need go down significantly. After Jazmine was chosen, the officers began to look at the bottom of the list in an attempt to admit a student with a unique ethnic background, ignoring academic accomplishments. Although on the surface the incoming class seems to be diverse, the process itself did not provide deserving students with equal educational opportunities.

There are ways in which a college admissions team can make sure the incoming class is both diverse and academically qualified. In 2000, the Florida State Board of Education “banned consideration of race in admissions decisions for the state’s higher education institutions” (Fryer 2). At the same time, they implemented the “Talented 20 Program” which guarantees those students who graduate the 20% of their class at a Florida public school and take either the SATs or ACTs a spot at one of the “eleven state universities” (Fryer 2). By implementing this program, students all over the state, regardless of race and socioeconomic status, are given a spot at a state university, given the fact that they are within the top 20% of their class. No matter what public high school, either in a wealthy area or impoverished area, those students who perform well are offered admissions and thus given an equal educational opportunity, no matter what walks of life. By executing such a plan, the incoming class is one filled with diversity without skipping over certain applicants or giving others an upper edge. Although this is harder to do at a smaller institution, such as the college, it shows that there are successful, fair ways to disregard race in the admissions process and get a diverse, academically suitable class.

It is understandable that colleges feel pressure to admit both the brightest and academically fit students and a diverse class, however, there is a point in the admissions process in which the way certain applicants are looked over others is unfair and at times, illegal. Although the admissions officers of the simulation of The College tried to uphold the laws and regulations of admissions, some aspects of this process were questionable, creating a bias towards those of different races and creating a class not solely based on merit and not giving all applying students an equal opportunity of admissions.

Works Cited

Coleman, Arthur L., Scott R. Palmer, and Steven Y. Winnick. “Race-Neutral Policies in Higher Education: From Theory to Action.” CollegeBoard, June 2008. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

“4th Round Review.” Trinity College, Sept. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2013. <>.

Fryer, Roland G., Glenn C. Loury, and Tolga Yuret. Color-blind Affirmative Action. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2003. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

Gratz v. Bollinger. Cornell University Law School. Supreme Court. 23 June 2003. Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School, Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

Killgore, Leslie. “Merit And Competition In Selective College Admissions.” Review Of Higher Education 32.4 (2009): 469-488. ERIC. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.