Class Dismissed? Showcase

[When] Monday March 19th, 5-6:30pm

[Where] Campus Center Main Lounge

[What] Last spring, as part of a yearlong initiative titled “Class Dismissed? Furthering the Dialogue About Class,” the President’s Diversity Council and the Diversity Leadership Group invited members of the Bryn Mawr campus community to submit proposals for collaborative projects designed to spark dialogue on the topic of class. Five groups received funding. Their work since last spring is noted below, as well as what they will share Monday. We hope you’ll attend!

Who Matters: Staff Perceptions of Social Class at Bryn Mawr College, by Melanie Bethea, Naté Hall, Maruyi Yu and Stephanie Wujcik. Monday’s program will kick off with this group’s short documentary focused on the ways that staff experience class at the College.

Class and Health Care. Sally Heimann, who collected personal stories about this connection, will present one audio interview and have additional interviews available at a listening station.

Benchmark. Addie Ansell, Jessica Wong, and Kady Ruth Ashcraft used a mobile bench to allow community members in various locations around campus to share their stories. Monday’s attendees can hear the stories through headphones at a listening station.

Storytelling: A Celebration of Class. Earlier this semester, the Executive Board of the student Self Government Association (Yong Jong Cho, Rebecca Sanders, Tina Hu, Mae Carlson, and Priya Saxena) presented “Bedtime Stories,” in which administrators and faculty shared accounts of experiences with class. On Monday, they will display an assortment of speech bubbles to provide a visual representation of people’s thoughts on the topic.

Mapping Out Class. Jody Cohen, Anne Dalke, Sarah Jenness, Alice Lesnick, Jomaira Salas, Samantha Saludades, Mfon-ido Akpan, Ellen Li and Michaela Olson worked with E-Sems to examine daily life experiences on campus through the lens of class. Many community members participated in this group’s fall workshop; on Monday, the group will present two activities about money and class.

The program will begin with a welcome by President McAuliffe. Refreshments will be served.


Reflections on Class and Health Care

Sally Heimann, CRNP, whose project “Class and Health Care” is an RFP Winning Project,  wrote a reflection on the series of interviews she conducted over the past two semesters. To hear more about Ms. Heimann’s experiences and listen to the actual interviews, attend the Culmination Extravaganza, Monday March 19th, 5-6:30pm in the Campus Center Main Lounge.

When I first conceived of this Class Dismissed? Project, which I originally called Socio-Economic Status(SES) and Its Affect on Health Care Among Members of the Bryn Mawr College Community,  I thought about the barriers to care based on insurance and cost issues. There is plenty of research which supports the notion that people with lower incomes fare worse in health standards in the U.S.

But the project was meant to be about class, not specifically SES, so I renamed the project Class and Health Care.  “Class” is a more amorphous issue than is determined by insurance coverage or income alone.  Class is not just socio-economic status, race, education or income.  It is, instead, some amalgam of factors that is very difficult to pinpoint.  It changes over time and varies across populations/subgroups.  Reading the book Class Matters? helped me broaden my thinking as I prepared for the interviews.

In the end,however, all but one of the people who volunteered to tell their stories chose to do so because of having had the experience of being without health insurance.  The stories they related were all based on issues of insurance and difficulties managing the health care system based on financial issues.

And yet, all of the interviewees described an ability (either they themselves or their parents) to negotiate the health care system.  Because of their educational backgrounds, their connections with people in power or some sense of entitlement, they were able, for the most part, to obtain the care they needed.   I believe that ability distinguishes them from “lower” class individuals.  For those in the lowest classes, that access and wherewithal is simply missing.

This isn’t to say that the interviewees all had an easy time of it.  Far from it.  Yet, although everyone who was interviewed categorized themselves as middle-middle or lower-middle class, in some ways they could be classified as upper middle class.  By virtue of their educational background, their connections with people in power

Everyone was convinced that others on campus were at a higher economic level.  That may be true, to some extent, but health care, or the access to it, is an invisible commodity or privilege.  Someone who might appear affluent on the outside, by virtue of clothes and other material goods, may, in fact, be balancing on the precipice of financial ruin because of a lack of health insurance.

I guess in the end, one of the lessons is, never assume


Reflections on Bedtime Stories

Mae Carlson, a senior English major, former SGA secretary, and member of the “Storytelling:A Celebration of Class” RFP Winning Project, wrote the following reflection on the group’s story telling event:

On Thursday, Febraury 23rd, we (Yong Jung, Tina, Rebecca, Priya, and Mae) hosted an event in Rhoads common room called Bedtime Stories as part of our Class Dismissed? project: Storytelling: A Celebration of Class.  We invited faculty, staff, and administrators to share how they’ve thought about class in their lifetimes.  We wanted the event to parallel the bedtime stories tradition that takes place during hell week where seniors read stories to the other students in their dorms before calisthenics.  We liked the idea of extending the tradition of senior members of the community sharing their stories right after Hell Week has finished.

Our participants were President Jane McAuliffe, Dean Michele Rasmussen, Professor Elizabeth Mosier ’84 in the Creative Writing department, and Michaile Rainey from the CDO.  We asked participants to respond to the question “at what moment in your life did you feel different in terms of socio economic class?”

President McAuliffe was the first to speak.  She remembered what it felt like to win a scholarship to attend a high school in an affluent neighborhood. Her father didn’t believe in higher education for women and refused to pay for her to go to school.  She lived at home and worked to pay for her tuition.  She talked about what it was like to work at restaurants where her friends ate and noted that at that time it was possible to have a job and be a student.

Dean Rasmussen described how her dad worked for the New Zealand government when she was younger and her family lived in a rural middle class neighborhood. Her father was transferred to the United States and their family moved to Bel-Air, California.  The NZ government paid for her family’s home and her and her brothers schooling.  She liked to write when she was younger and wrote a story about a girl whose father was a British diplomat and whose family led a wealthy lifestyle.  After her mother read her story, she believed Dean Rasmussen was subconsciously writing about herself and not a fictional character, and made sure to tell her that they were not rich.  Looking back, Dean Rasmussen believes it was important to her mother that she did not think she was rich because her mother’s parents came from humble means and she wanted her to appreciate that they’d had to work for things.

Elizabeth Mosier talked about different jobs she worked when she lived in Phoenix, Arizona.  She described working as a maid in a hotel and having to wear a too short mustard colored maid’s uniform.  She remembers one day in particular when a man came out of his room and asked her if she would be willing to come back later.  She said she felt outraged that a man felt he could sexually proposition her because she was a maid, and that she also felt privileged to be able to feel that outrage.

Michaile Rainey spoke in a series of vignettes about class difference as her grandmother, her daughter, and she herself experienced it.  In one of her stories she described her experience going away to college and having a housekeeper in her dorm, working in a similar position as her grandmother. She felt uncomfortable with her housekeeper cleaning her room when this was the same job that her grandmother had performed for other people. In her last story, she described the feeling of having lunch at Wyndham earlier that day and how it reminded her of all the ways that the definitions of class boundaries had changed.

At the end of the participant’s stories, the students who came to the event and the participants had a conversation.  Students shared their stories about class difference in their lifetimes.  Students noticed that those who have been more privileged often feel as though they can’t share their experiences and how that fact has stunted conversations about class on campus.  We also discussed cultural differences in terms of the ways that families that have immigrated to the U.S think about class.

It was great to hear the stories of the participants and to hear the organic responses of the students in attendance.  Those who attended the event felt comfortable sharing their experiences in a non-judgmental setting and celebrating the ways we are the same and the ways that we are different.  At one point, Michaile Rainey noted that sometimes it’s difficult to incorporate certain aspects of our experiences into a story that we communicate and that making sense of what class means for us is an ongoing project – hopefully this is a project that the Bryn Mawr community can continue.


Come to next Monday’s Culmination Extravaganza to hear more about the bedtime stories event and their Bubble Extravaganza!


Bubble Extravaganza!

[When] Ongoing until 3/19.

[Where] Check your campus mailbox for a notecard and a bubble bottle (you get to keep the bubbles!)

[What] “Storytelling: A Celebration of Class”, a grant recipient for their project proposal, is asking you to write (on your notecard!)  about an experience when you felt different in terms of socioeconomic class… on campus, off campus, in high school, in middleschool… whenever! Just be honest and share your story.

Once you’ve anonymously written on your notecard, return them to Box C-398 before 3/19.

The notecards will be put on display in the Campus Center Main Lounge as part of the Project Culmination/Extravaganza!

Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life

[When] Thursday, March 15th. 4:30 PM

[Where] Ely Room, Wyndham

[What] Professor Tom Espenshade, Princeton University Professor of Sociology and Faculty Associate of the Office of Population Research will deliver remarks on the topic “Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life.”

A reception will follow the presentation, which builds on Professor Espenshade’s research presented in his award winning book, “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal,” which pulls back the curtain on the selective college experience and takes a rigorous and comprehensive look at how race and social class impact each stage — from application and admission, to enrollment and student life on campus.

Please join us for this important and thought provoking event.