Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

First-generation students spread awareness

Many Whitman students may be ignorant of the dilemmas faced by first-generation and working class students on campus.   In the first-year class alone, there are more than 51 first-generation students, and Whitman students may be uncomfortable or insensitive to their situations.

“There’s no real attitude of prejudice against students with economic problems, but there might not be sensitivity.   People may not know what to say when others can’t afford to go out or study abroad,” said first-year Mary Dolan.

First Generation/Working Class Students (FGWCS) is a club that offers support to at least 50 students on campus.

“We want to provide a safe place for first-gens and working class students,” said President Gabrielle Arrowood.

“Being a working class student affects everything I do,” said Amelia Singer, co-president of the FGWCS.   “There’s a lot of things that most students don’t think about, that we do.   Like taking an art class, or the cost of books, or just having the confidence to do things.”

Arrowood, Singer and the club’s advisor, Professor Julie Charlip, addressed the issue of class diversity at the Symposium on Diversity and Community in January.   The Tunnel of Oppression also addressed class-based discrimination.

“The symposium was a great first start for making the campus aware of the problem,” said Arrowood. “Whitman has a problem with the way it addresses diversity.   It is seen as something to be celebrated, but how can you celebrate not having enough money?”

Being a first-generation or working class student on campus usually means hunting down financial aid, working regular hours and encountering stereotypes and a lack of understanding in other students.

“Working class students can only look into schools close to their homes or with good financial aid.   Many first-gens don’t have a lot of financial support from their families when they apply to college.   And we certainly don’t count on monthly checks from our parents,” said Arrowood.

“Whitman is pretty supportive, but they have a hard time understanding us as a diversity group.   They’re working on it though,” said Singer.   ASWC is starting a new club for students who don’t identify as first-generation or working class students, but are concerned with the issues on campus.   Interested students should contact Arrowood at [email protected].

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