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Is Privilege an Issue?

I think it’s woven into every facet of school culture, how much money kids come from or don’t come from. I think we need to be careful about not thinking that wealthy kids have it so easy, because everyone has issues and everyone has things that they’re struggling with. But in terms of financial considerations, I think it can be difficult to be a Deerfield student and wanting to keep up… There’s a very different reality for kids who don’t come from a lot of money. I really do think we need to be careful about how we frame the conversation.

-Amie Creagh, Dean of Students 

 

One student said, “I don’t even get why we’re talking about this because it’s not a problem. Why are we making a problem out of it?” There’s nothing I can do for someone to make him see it’s a problem that doesn’t exist for him…

It’s true that socioeconomic class is a part of life–it’s not an issue because it’s a fact. Deerfield tries to be a microcosm of a regular community. There are people from all different backgrounds, and there’s not much you can do about that.

-Sarah Sutphin ’13 

Talk to kids when college acceptance letters come and you will likely see–and I don’t know if that’s how some students truly feel–but if their acceptance is based on their sports performance or family connections, it’s fine, but if it’s based on socioeconomic status, that changes everything…

I think Deerfield could improve tremendously if we had more middle-class students. Students have one view of the wealthy and one view of people without a lot of money, and almost no one is talking to or about the middle class.

-Darnell Barnes, Math Teacher 

 

Over time, I’ve noticed kids who are working class make more of an effort to get to know the kitchen staff. I remember one girl who knew the entire staff by name. Maybe they have more of an appreciation for what a workman does. I don’t know.

-Bruce MacConnell, Dining Hall Staff 

 

Part of me thinks…the more talk there is, the worse the problem [there is]. So when you talk about socioeconomic divide, the more talk there is about it, the more apparent it becomes. One thing that I’ve noticed over the years by having advisees is that as I’ve talked to them I’ve said, “So what’s the hardest thing for you about Deerfield?” and the answer has been, “Saying where you’re from.”

-Mimi Morsman, Director of Alumni Relations 

 

There’s pressure to spend whether it’s on clothing, money for The Greer, going to a restaurant on a weekend, ordering food, or signing up for a school trip. It’s a strain for many families to be able to keep up and it inevitably means that you’re going to have challenges bridging the gap.

-John Taylor, Dean of Faculty 

 

We have all made assumptions about a person’s socioeconomic class based on his or her persona. We reason that because somebody likes to do this or that he must have a lot of money, or because somebody speaks in a certain way, she probably comes from a humble background. This leads us to hide aspects of who we are so as not to be labeled by those around us. This is an issue that is present in greater society— not just Deerfield.

-Gabby Gauthier ’13 

 

There’s no question that our student body demographic does not reflect the national demographic. At a wealthy independent school there is sometimes this aspirational language of bringing in the best from everywhere.

-Steven Taft, Language Teacher 

 

Schools like Deerfield, colleges too, end up having the “barbell effect,” where we have very wealthy people who can attend here without financial aid and then we have people who get a lot of financial aid. The middle class gets squeezed out because they can’t afford it and the formula for financial aid often doesn’t make it possible for them to come…

-Elizabeth Bishop, College Advisor and Self-Study Coordinator 

 

Living only within our socioeconomic class, we might start thinking negatively or stereotypically about people outside our class. We might have preconceived connotations and feel uncomfortable crossing supposed barriers. But after being exposed to different socioeconomic classes at Deerfield, I don’t think class is something I think about every day. It’s there and, for me, it doesn’t merit attention or change how I perceive someone as a person.

-Morgan Macey ’14 

 

Yes, I believe Deerfield experiences issues related to socioeconomic class. After all, Deerfield is simply a microcosm of the world and our environment is vulnerable to the impacts of socioeconomic class the same as the rest of the world. If I were to simplify the issue, I’d say the problem at Deerfield is a lack of awareness coupled with a lack of sharing of experiences. Those who come from a privileged background lack awareness of what it is like for those who don’t.

- Sheila Fritz, Counselor 

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