Over the past few months, socioeconomic class has become an increasingly prominent topic of conversation among students.
At the Freshmen Assembly in August last year, University President Peter Salovey called socioeconomic status one of the “last taboos” amongst students on campus. Since then, various student groups have spoken up to promote discussion on the subject. Last December, Yale’s Peer Liaisons of La Casa created a Tumblr blog called “Class at Yale,” intended as a space for students to write about their experiences with socioeconomic class at Yale. Control of the blog has now been handed over the Yale Undergraduate First Generation-Low Income Partnership (U-FLIP), a student group that seeks to address class issues through open discourse and held its first meeting at the Native American Cultural Center on Feb. 20.
U-FLIP members said the “Class at Yale” Tumblr originally inspired the group’s formation.
Andrew Williams ’16 said U-FLIP’s first meeting ran well over its scheduled hour, which he saw as encouraging because students expressed interest in continuing the conversation. Amongst the 25 attendants of the event, Williams said, it seemed like many students had never had a discussion about socioeconomic class at Yale before.
Since the event, more than 80 students have expressed interest in U-FLIP and signed up for the email panlist.
Monique Arnold ’15 said the format of the first meeting encouraged honest discussion about a variety of issues that might not otherwise surface in everyday conversation. Arnold used the issue of summer internships as an example — many students may find themselves at odds between their financial needs and their desire to take unpaid or low-paying opportunities.
U-FLIP outlined its three main goals at the meeting: to develop a space to embrace one’s socioeconomic identity, to create a community of students with a shared background and to compel administrators to step in and help the group further its projects.
David Truong ’14, one of U-FLIP’s organizers, said the group has modeled itself after a group at Stanford that works on similar issues. Truong added that U-FLIP is currently considering a variety of “micro-projects,” including building administrative partners and working to standardize how colleges provide base levels of support for students in need.
Students interviewed agreed that it is important to acknowledge the issue of socioeconomic diversity on campus, and that it is a realm of conversation that tends to be ignored or avoided.
“A lot of people still feel uncomfortable talking openly about class differences, more so than race, religion and sexuality,” Emily Patton ’17 said.
Several freshmen said the topic of class has been on their minds since Salovey spoke about it at the Freshman Assembly.
Kate O’Brien ’17, a student from Ireland, said she feels that international students tend to be more comfortable discussing their socioeconomic background because it is “expected” that students would only travel abroad for school if they received some form of aid.
The “Class at Yale” Tumblr has garnered more than 100 anonymous posts from Yale students.