Issues of wealth, class, and privilege at BC were discussed Monday night in the latest installment of UGBC’s “BC Ignites” series.
The issue of socioeconomic status is oftentimes removed from everyday conversation at Boston College: this thought was the basis for the fall 2014 installment of BC Ignites. Presented by the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC), the Monday night event featured six student speakers on the issue of socioeconomics at BC.
Keynote speaker Natasha Torkelson, LGSOE ’16, began the night discussing social class and its broad effects. Although an electrician can make over six figures per year, she argued, electricians are still commonly thought as being lower on the social ladder than a teacher, who might only make $30,000 per year. This idea of “social value” and class leads to people being stuck within the class into which they were born, unable to work their way out, she said.
“The strongest predictor of being in poverty is having parents in poverty.” Torkelson said. She cited a statistic that only six percent of those in poverty will ever be wealthy.
“The more unequal society is, the worse everyone does,” Torkelson said in closing.
Following Torkelson, five other students spoke on their experiences with socioeconomic status and life at BC. The first was Delphina Gerber-Williams, A&S ’15, who discussed her struggles with class at the University, as well as the privileges many of us take for granted.
“What truly makes it hard to have a conversation is how we all get caught up in taking for granted these cozy, amazing lives that we live,” said Gerber-Williams. “Tomorrow we know we will be fed, tomorrow we know we will be warm, and this isn’t the case for some students when they go home.”
She went on to remind everyone that even things many BC students see as difficulties—such as staying up all night to study for a test—are privileges, only made possible because they were able to graduate high school and attend college.
The second undergraduate speaker was Lisa Edouard, LSOE ’16, who spoke about her experience coming to terms with poverty. Edouard found herself unable to spend money on herself as a student that others took for granted. She spoke about constantly thinking about her financial situation, and how it could be brought up at any moment.
“We need to acknowledge these class differences and begin conversations on socioeconomic class because it affects our lives as students,” Edouard said.
Nikita Patel, CSOM ’17 then spoke about the idea of “being average” at BC. She spoke about averageness as the ideal for a BC student: one has to avoid the negative associations that come with upper and lower classes to prevent criticism and judgment. Using examples from her own life, she spoke about the economic diversity of BC students and how often, these differences aren’t even considered.
“Maybe we can all benefit by being a little less average and a little more authentic,” Patel said.
The fourth student to speak was Cusaj Thomas, A&S ’15, who pointed to the factors that helped him face adversity: growing up in a poor and dangerous neighborhood, Thomas traveled a difficult path to BC. He indicated that outside factors, such as supportive administrators, have helped him avoid the pitfalls that growing up in a lower class can present.
“I can give a solution based off of my personal experience … having an outside factor to help break that cycle of poverty,” Thomas said, expressing his belief that it is through external forces that the poor are given a chance to rise in socioeconomic status.
Finally, Lucas Levine, A&S ’15, spoke about his personal struggles with money, including the foreclosure of his home. Levine considered the difficulty his family faced in coming to grips with being poor and having to overcome the need to maintain a facade of wealth.
“You can only tear down the stereotypes by taking the narrative into your own hands,” he said. “And I think that’s what we’re starting to do today.”
Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Photo Illustration