Wise Fools: Dialogue at Brown

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Hello all! I’m Christy Le, an enthusiastic but slightly sarcastic goofball who will be your second-year blogger for Wise Fools. Follow me on my tumultuous journey as I awkwardly stumble through my Sophomore year and courageously battle the vicious beast best known as “the Sophomore Slump.”

I am incredibly #blessed to go to Brown (Don’t worry, I am well aware how cringe-worthy it is that I just used a hashtag outside of the Twitter realm). I’ve always recognized that attending Brown marks a certain level of privilege. However, this is usually a thought that resides in the back of my mind, drowned out by my complaints about how stressed I am about school. So what made me fully come to this realization this weekend?

Well, my friend from high school who currently attends Cornell visited me this weekend. She was on campus for a Model United Nations conference at Brown and was only in town for three days. She had quite the busy schedule, but I found time to take her on a tour of Brown’s campus which was a bit hard to see under all of the snow banks. Regardless, she was astounded by how “nice” the Providence weather was compared to Ithaca weather. Together, we did crossword puzzles, ate mediocre food at the dining halls, chatted in cafes, and talked about classism, heteronormativity, privilege, and elitism. For those of you who are reading this and don’t go to Brown, you’re probably rolling your eyes and chuckling to yourself as you laugh at the fact that all the stereotypes you’ve heard about Brown are so true.

But honestly, I don’t think it’s weird at all to have these conversations; I actually think it’s weird that there are college campuses where conversations like these aren’t being had. My friend from Cornell thought it was hysterical that she had come to Brown and had her first conversation about privilege and classism. In response, I sat there, mouth agape, astounded by the fact that she hadn’t ever had any conversations like these when she attended a school as elite as Cornell.

Brown is part of the Ivy League. As is Cornell. The Ivy League is considered a class of the elite, and to go to a school where about half of the student body doesn’t receive any financial aid to pay for the $60,000+ price tag for college is noteworthy. I think Brown is a university with many privileged students, regardless of one’s socioeconomic background. Of course there are students here who are on full-ride scholarships and those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, but the fact of the matter is that we’re still all students at an Ivy League institution and with that comes a certain, undeniable privilege.

There will be days and weeks where I’m wishing that they will end so I will be done with my work. School work constantly stresses me out to the point where I do just want the days to be over and the weeks to end. But in these times, I try to remember how lucky I am to have exams and assignments and problem sets to be stressing about. There are people out there who would love the opportunity to be stressed out about school. There are people out there who would love to be able to attend college. And here I am at Brown University, with the privilege of attending my dream university while also being surrounded by some of the brightest and most talented students I have ever met.

There are many other prestigious universities across the country. A college degree by itself is already a marker of privilege. There is a lot of critique of the Ivy League and that article about why you shouldn’t send your child to an ivy league school got a lot of recognition. And while the points raised in that article are legitimate arguments, I do have to disagree with the article as a whole. I don’t think the solution to solving the problem of privilege in the Ivy League is to avoid it as a whole. Rather, the solution is to address the issue and have informative discussions about privilege. I think that the fact that I have attended Brown and been confronted with privilege has made me into a better person. I went to a pretty good high school. It was a public school but it was a public school that was in a great area, and so the high property taxes of the area allowed us to have amazing classrooms, teachers, sports teams, and extra-curriculars. That was privilege, and I was able to recognize that for simply going to a public school in a nice area, I had a certain level of privilege.

Now that I’m attending Brown, I have met people with incomprehensible wealth. Seriously, you meet some people and you look for the cameras because you feel like you’re starring in a parody of the Ivy League. Outside of monetary wealth, there are many other kinds of privilege that exist on Brown’s campus as well as on many other college campuses, and I thoroughly enjoy the fact that conversations about the privilege that exists on Brown’s campus are constantly being had. People always ask what’s the point of “checking your privilege” or why it matters whether you have conversations about it or not. I guess “the point” is to be more a conscious and informed citizen of society.

I guess I wrote this week’s article about privilege to talk about how disconcerting it is that there are college campuses where rich dialogue about privilege doesn’t exist. I definitely think that this is a troubling fact. Such dialogue is crucial in having a realistic perspective on the world, and I am inexplicably jubilant that I attend a university where there are a plethora of intellectual discussions about privilege. It definitely gives me a better perspective on days when I’m feeling sorry for myself for being a Biochem concentrator.

Thanks so much for reading guys! Be sure to check back next Sunday for a new post!

If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or suggestions, feel free to email me at christy_le@brown.edu! Thanks so much for reading and have a splendid day!

Until next week,

Christy

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