I think it’s easy for students from lower incomes to feel excluded from places like Yale. I mean – who are we kidding? It’s ridiculously expensive to go there. It’s definitely not something the average student even aims for. There’s just something really unsettling about a school alumni that is so out-of-touch with that student that it produces a cover like this one:
Yale College seeks smart students from poor families. They’re out there – but hard to find.
The article is written by a clearly affluent alumnus. He admits, “If I had glimpsed America’s rural poor at all, it had been from the windows of swiftly moving vehicles.” The article is about the school and it’s attempts at trying to increase its “socioeconomic diversity.” He reminisces over the first student he met who was a product of this effort – who would become his roommate. He mentions seeing some of their differences melt away when he sees they have a “shared affinity for PlayStation games and Wilco albums.” But ultimately, we know his roommate will never be like him. I mean – the author is a legitimate student, and his roommate was acquired, like fruit, to fulfill diversity efforts, right?
The article itself is a pretty honest critique of how the school needs to do better to fulfill it’s obligations to reach out to a broader student body – as it culminates in this quote Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation (a progressive think tank):
“Yale, like other nonprofit private institutions, receives enormous tax breaks because it’s supposed to be serving the public interest,” he says. “To my mind, a central feature of serving that public interest is helping students from all backgrounds achieve the American Dream, and so long as very large portions of the Yale student body are coming from the most privileged backgrounds in the country, I think Yale is not serving that public purpose.” He continues: “In America, institutions of higher education are meant to promote social mobility, and right now, Yale and other leading universities aren’t serving that function. For the most part they are replicating existing inequalities.”
The point of the article seems to be a good one – but how to get past this cover? I can’t.
Maybe there are those who aren’t as sensitive as I am to things like economic disparity. But the cover is just – infuriating. The low-hanging fruit they are speaking of are people. People. Not objects to be acquired to help a college have the diverse qualities we tend to expect from schools in this century. It is an important discussion to have – but the magazine is illustrating pretty clearly that they may be too out of touch to initiate it.
(photo: Yale Alumni Magazine)