For all of Lawrence’s problems regarding social justice, one great thing about the university is all of the activists and student leaders who spread awareness and advocate for change.
Even though the campus is more aware than ever about various kinds of privilege and how they build inequality and unsafe environments for students, one massive form of privilege is often ignored: economic privilege.
Lawrence students come from all different kinds of economic backgrounds, but this is not always acknowledged. Many Lawrentians identify as “middle class,” but, frankly, many are not. Since Lawrence offers so much to students for no additional cost—like swiping in at the Commons or the Wellness Center—students are able to keep their economic situations private.
These differences manifest in a number of potentially harmful ways. For one, more financially-comfortable students might invite their friends to go to bars or restaurants on College Avenue without considering that while it is not an issue for them, it may be a hardship for those friends of a lower economic class.
Another area we can see this kind of privilege is in the way students talk about Appletonians or “townies.” While not explicitly or universally related to class, sometimes talk of “townies” is related to a perceived class difference between Lawrentians and community members.
The best way for our campus to become more inclusive when it comes to class is to be more aware of how we talk about our own and others’ money. Additionally, Sociology of Education, a course offered by the Education Studies department, discusses the effects social class has in education. With only three percent of the student body paying full tuition, it just is not safe to assume everyone is of the same class. Next time you invite friends downtown or ask your club members for money, make room for people’s differences. Your classmates will appreciate it.