Continuing from Part 1. I’m fully aware that we talk in circles, but I only have so many hours in a day.

AU: You have to remember each class at Williams contains a mere 500 students. If you want to fit in a certain kind of “majority” student as well as minorities, you are severely constrained by space limitations. So, statistically speaking, it pays to combine attributes.

WS: You said that last time. I don’t see where you’re getting the idea that Williams aims for a certain specific kind of majority student. Williams aims for certain public benchmark indicators that are prevalent at certain schools because those schools have their own admissions process and spend lots of money to train students well in those indicators. Otherwise, Private School X is out of business.

AU: I’m not necessarily saying Williams aims for a certain student, I’m saying that the process contains an inherent preference for a wealthier, whiter student body.

WS: YES.

AU: But I feel as if we are missing the point

WS: I don’t think so; this is crucial. The process of every college has a preference for wealth and whiteness; that’s why there are specific policies exist to counteract those preferences.

AU: I’m not concerned with Williams’s admissions policies. I’m more concerned with how students interact once they are here. Let’s change gears.

WS: I think I remember you saying last time that interaction between the “majority” student and the “minority” student is fundamentally flawed. Is that right?

AU: Yes.

WS: Do you think that the distinction you see between majority and minority is part of the problem, because others see it?

AU: Which distinction?

WS: In your paradigm, there’s a specific gulf between two types of students. I’m saying that even thinking about the student body in that way is going to cause a mistake. Sorting students isn’t going to improve relations between anyone. I don’t think that a student from Delbarton is going to mesh more with a student from Westminster in Atlanta than me, just because I went to a public school.

AU: I believe, in fact, that a part of the problem is Williams’s refusal to sort students. The differences are more stark.

WS: Elaborate, please.

AU: you’re talking about black students from places like the South Bronx, Compton, and Baltimore city existing alongside students from Park Avenue. Those students have absolutely nothing in common.

WS: Nothing is a strong word.

AU: Even students from the middle class (as defined by American standards) share little in common with the upper class, white majority. I do believe those students can articulate those connections; I would like to make that clear. But they don’t come naturally, and they tend to be tenuous at best.

WS: Well, I’ll agree that ideas of “middle class” at Williams are skewed
I still remember a lecture by Morty when he defined it as below 250k and I gawked a little.

AU: Middle class, to me, is $50,000. So, you have students whose parents make $50,000 who exist alongside students who are multi-millionaires. How much do you think those students will have in common?

WS: High SAT Scores. A love of theater, or dance, or sport, or whatever passions they displayed that got them into Williams. People drink at all income ranges
People play sports at all income ranges. People go through the same growing pains at all income ranges. A chemistry test is the same whether your dad works at the Chemical company or owns it.

AU: I think in terms of intimate social interaction, those attributes may not be enough.

WS: What do you mean? Have you ever been to a cast party?
Ever been to a sports practice here? I don’t see how the divide you articulate exists in those contexts. And, if it can be shown not to factor there, then it can be said the same elsewhere.

AU: In terms of the people we choose to date, the people we associate with, those people tend to be individuals with whom we share the most in common.

WS: That’s certainly true, and I don’t deny that we often identify the most with people we share things in common with. But that’s different than saying that no meaningful interaction is possible. I’ve got friends here with many more resources than I’ve ever enjoyed, and friends with zero resources.
I still learn from them and benefit from our conversations. Yes, I still identify most with other Southerners, and hold them as close friends in disproportionate numbers, but that doesn’t make the other connections invalid or impossible. Does that make sense?

AU: It makes sense. Admittedly, though, I don’t believe you could make the same argument for many students on this campus. I’m not saying meaningful interaction is impossible. I’m merely saying it rarely happens.

WS: And that keeps Williams from being inclusive?

AU: I also think, the same reasons that sway you to associate disproportionately with Southerners, are the same reasons that sway white, upper class students to associate disproportionately with other white, upper class students.

WS: Yes, I associate disproportionably with southerners, but more specifically, there are southerners with similar interests to mine. It’s not just about the white and upper-class labels. You’re throwing down a huge gauntlet there that doesn’t help anything, and in fact is very negative.

AU: What I’m saying is that there are several different social groups on campus, whether they are joined by race, class, or any one of many characteristics. I feel as if interactions between these different groups suffer from the fact that there is no large “middle section” of students who share much in common. What you get are different, and disparate, groups of students. It’s not merely limited to issues of race. I think this is due to Williams’s small size and orientation.

WS: Unpack that word “orientation” for me.

AU: Williams’s history, culture, and perhaps even preference as and for elite society. Or as a bastion for and of elite society.

WS: That’s not an accurate statement of Williams’s history.

AU: I’m not here to argue.

WS: Ok, and that was a little pedantic, given that you’re right when talking about Williams’s recent history. The days not long past when students on scholarship had to wait the tables of those paying full fare. Williams does maintain status as an elite college for elite students, who often come from elite schools.
Those schools aren’t always private, but you’re right that Williams occupies a part of society that’s foreign to many. I had never been to anything like a dinner at Morty’s before my first one. I still remember my confusion when people in lab were talking about their debutante balls.

AU: Let me be clear; I don’t intend this as a diatribe against upper class society. I merely notice that students from different groups rarely meaningfully and honestly interact, and I attempt to diagnose why that is. As a minority, I have a ‘window’ into a world most white students never see.

WS: Expound please.

AU: I understand the backgrounds, insecurities, and social views of students from my minority group.

WS: Define the bounds of your “minority group,” or as much as you can while staying anon. Are you trying to say you can speak for everyone of your race?

AU: I am not; I couldn’t, because not everyone from my race shares the same views. But, I understand students from my racial group much more comprehensibly than the majority of students who do not belong to that group.

WS: So this is something I don’t get. There are lots of students who, on paper, have very similar backgrounds to my own. White, Georgian, Upper-middle class, and what-have-you, but we all turned out incredibly different.

AU: You share common bonds, the strongest of which is perhaps race. Minority students stand out. And both white and minority students carry preconceived notions of the ‘other.’ The issue is complex; I don’t want to make it seem as if it is black and white.

WS: No, its definitely not. Maybe I just tend to approach it that way because my high school was 50-50 black-white, so that’s the dynamic I’m most comfortable with.

AU: Coming to Williams, I am much more likely to have an explicit preference toward members of my racial group; they are who I feel most comfortable with. Understand that this is a two-way street; it applies as well to minorities as it does to white students. At, say, a large public institution, there would be a large, and diverse enough student population that students would share enough commonalities that you could override this preference. At Williams, however, the student population is significantly smaller, and so those commonalities do not exist.

WS: Explain to me why it works like that. Because I would think that at a large college, there would be room for larger, self-supporting and sustainable minority groups that could support a full social life without input from the outside, and that size would cause separation.

AU : Well, I’ll give an example. Let’s take the university of Maryland, college park.
20,00 students most of whom come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Whether black or white, these students, because they come from similar social and economic conditions, would share much in common, enough that racial differences would be much less of a divisor. But when you are middle class and you come to Williams, and suddenly there are students from Greenwich and Park Avenue, you become wary.

WS: Wary of what? That you’ll get run over by a Lexus?

AU: Very funny.

WS: It is a little heavy, hope you don’t mind. :D

AU: You become wary of this person’s mannerisms, their personal preferences, etc.

WS: I don’t get what’s so scary. Foreign and strange, yes, but worthy of wariness?

AU: But when you talk about dating, relationships, and honest, candid discussions, things get hairier – the issue of preconceived notions, for example. I believe people on this campus carry heavy preconceived notions of the other for the precise reason that they wouldn’t normally interact. That kid from the South Bronx wouldn’t normally interact with the kid from Greenwich. And so stereotypes and misconceptions run rampant. You see it in the stares, the unasked questions, the undue politeness. Administrative interference makes it worse, because it undoes the mechanisms students use to restore that comfort.

WS: I have no idea what that last sentence means. What mechanisms?

AU: Things like living together, group funding, etc. I’m thinking about the new rule that says cultural groups can only use school money to buy ‘cultural food.’ What is ‘cultural food’? Did anyone, truthfully, consider the logic in that rule?

WS: So you think that the path to the best co-existence is to allow people to live in separate spheres?

AU: I’m adamant about this next point. It is most comfortable to follow that path. That does not make it the best path. The problem is, you cannot manufacture that social interaction artificially. It can’t be done.

WS: Not in a well-managed entry?

AU: I don’t think I’m being very articulate. Sorry, I’ve had class all day. The entry system is horrendous.

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