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Stanford Class Confessions

“Being abroad is really tough as a FLI person. There’s a lot of pressure to go out and explore and spend money that I don’t have because I can’t even work this quarter, and the majority of the people in my group have been all over the world, while this trip is pretty much the furthest I’ve ever been from home.”

“Because I’ve never struggled with money, I’m deathly afraid to go out into the world and not make enough.”

“I don’t qualify for financial aid because my parents are extremely wealthy, but they refuse to pay for school. I have nice clothes/things from growing up rich, but I’ll graduate with over $150,000 of debt. All the money I make from my 15-35 hours/week job(s) goes to Stanford, and I’m majoring in Engineering just to make money upon graduating. What “class” am I even in?”

Confessions like these covered the walls of the BCSC’s Community Room last Tuesday at the third annual Class Confessions. Hosted by Stanford’s First Generation and/or Low Income Partnership, this event brought together students of all socioeconomic backgrounds to discuss the 100+ anonymous submitted confessions. Class Confessions began three years ago to encourage cross-class dialogue at Stanford. We asked students to submit confessions about their experiences with class here, followed by a workshop to discuss ideas for action. Since then, the program has gathered more confessions than ever before and inspired a new Facebook Page (Stanford Class Confessions) where students can continue to submit confessions. Class Confessions has even spread across the country, with colleges like Northwestern and the Claremont Colleges adopting some form of the program.

The high number of confessions demonstrates how much more work is needed to break the silence around class on our campus. While some students proudly share their class identities, others continue to hide it. However, the Facebook page’s popularity and the event’s high attendance reveal that students want to engage in these tough conversations. Students want to open up the Stanford community and make it a safe and inclusive space. At Class Confessions, we discussed how we could accomplish this.

Perhaps the most prevalent topic was the need for better cross-class conversations. Students regularly interact with people of different class identities, but how often do we discuss class with these individuals? How comfortable are we with sharing our backgrounds and not judging others for theirs? Students expressed the need to approach these conversations with open minds, and without judgement or withdrawal from these conversations.

There was also a call for a greater presence of diversity studies in the framework of the Stanford experience. There should be more direct addressing of class and diversity in general in our curriculum.  We should continue to build on existing programming like Crossing the Line, especially in dorm life, which programs such as Classing the Line and Beyond the Line have begun to do. Another suggestion was to interweave discussions on class in artistic performances such as plays. We can build the skills to address class issues by confronting the issue of socioeconomic class at multiple levels within the University.

Finally, we charged ourselves and each other to remember that the context of class identity matters. For some, this meant coming to Stanford from a homogenous class community and being confronted with new class identities. For others, it meant having a different class identity than one’s own family. The confessions showcased a wide variety of experiences within similar class identities, proving that an identity alone is not enough to understand one’s experience–context is incredibly important.

Stanford’s First Generation and/or Low Income Partnership seeks to build a community of first generation and/or low income (FLI) students and supporters in order to empower FLI students and raise awareness of class issues. We seek to foster an open and respectful campus environment by advocating on behalf of the FLI community and engaging in cross-class dialogue.

If you want to read other confessions or submit one of your own, please visit the Stanford Class Confessions Page.

The FLIP Core

Contact the co-presidents of FLIP, Destiny Lopez and Judith Shanika Pelpola, at stanfordflipcore ‘at’ gmail.com

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