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Race and Class Matters at an Elite College

Race and Class Matters at an Elite College

Elizabeth Aries
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Race and Class Matters at an Elite College
    Book Description:

    InRace and Class Matters at an Elite College, Elizabeth Aries provides a rare glimpse into the challenges faced by black and white college students from widely different class backgrounds as they come to live together as freshmen. Based on an intensive study Aries conducted with 58 students at Amherst College during the 2005-2006 academic year, this book offers a uniquely personal look at the day-to-day thoughts and feelings of students as they experience racial and economic diversity firsthand, some for the first time.

    Through online questionnaires and face-to-face interviews, Aries followed four groups of students throughout their first year of college: affluent whites, affluent blacks, less financially advantaged whites from families with more limited education, and less financially advantaged blacks from the same background. Drawing heavily on the voices of these freshmen, Aries chronicles what they learned from racial and class diversity-and what colleges might do to help their students learn more.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-727-5
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Becoming a More Diverse College: Challenges and Benefits
    (pp. 1-12)

    If I had stood before the entering freshman class at Amherst College in the fall of 1967 (the first year for which data on race are available), almost all the 304 male faces looking up at me would have been white and affluent. How white? All but 12. There were no Puerto Ricans, no Chicanos. There was one Asian American student. Seven of the students were from abroad, including two from Canada. How affluent? Sixty-two percent of the class was receiving no financial aid, and for those who did receive it, many of the awards were nominal. Nearly a quarter...

  5. 2 Investigating Race and Class Matters on Campus
    (pp. 13-24)

    In the fall of 2005, I invited four groups of entering first-year students at Amherst to share with me their experiences with diversity over their first year of college. As described in the previous chapter, these four groups included students who were either: (1) affluent white, (2) affluent black, (3) white with high financial need and/or limited family education, or (4) black with high financial need and/or limited family education. Before describing the findings of the study, we need to take a step back and examine in more detail how those students were selected for the study, how the groups...

  6. 3 First Encounters with Race and Class
    (pp. 25-43)

    Students came to campus with differing experiences, attitudes, hopes, and fears based on their race and class backgrounds. Students who were black, lower-income, or both were joining a predominantly white affluent community and had different concerns from affluent white students, who were joining a community where the majority of students would be similar to themselves. To what extent were differences in social class and race on the minds of students in the first weeks? What role did students think class and race would play in the journey ahead?

    Students first gained awareness of the class differences among them not through...

  7. 4 Negotiating Class Differences
    (pp. 44-63)

    Students came to campus from very different places on the class spectrum, and, as a consequence, faced different challenges in living and interacting on a daily basis. How did students, both affluent and lower-income, view their position on that spectrum and make sense of the differing privileges or obstacles they had faced in getting to this point? Did students with high financial need feel envy or jealousy toward peers who had been dealt a different hand than they had? Did affluent students feel guilt about their privilege? Did lower-income students see advantages to their social position? How did students handle...

  8. 5 Relationships across Race and Class
    (pp. 64-86)

    Students at the college have the opportunity in the dorms, in extra-curricular activities, and at social events, to get to know students from a broad range of races and class backgrounds. But do they? Are students able to overcome apprehensions they might have about how to act with members of another race or social class, anxieties about how they might be viewed and whether they might be accepted or rejected?¹ Or do students stay within their comfort zones and self-segregate with friends of their own race and class? The first half of this chapter will examine these questions with regard...

  9. 6 Learning from Racial Diversity
    (pp. 87-108)

    The college offered optimal conditions for students’ racial stereotypes to be challenged and replaced by more accurate views of members of other races, for students’ racial understanding to be broadened and deepened. But did such learning actually occur? The majority of blacks had gotten to know two or more whites well, and the majority of whites had gotten to know two or more blacks well. Did such cross-race interaction lead to learning about race? Did being in the classroom with students of other races contribute to students’ racial learning? This chapter begins with an examination of students’ racial stereotypes and...

  10. 7 Learning from Class-Based Diversity
    (pp. 109-130)

    Students entered college with different levels of prior exposure to class differences. “Social class wasn’t really something I thought about for the most part…. All my friends growing up were on the same level as me,” said Nicole, a lower-income white, and she was not alone. Many students came to campus having given little thought to social class and with little experience interacting with people of a different social class. Even students from high schools that brought together students from diverse class backgrounds had not necessarily interacted with people different from themselves or thought about the meaning and implications of...

  11. 8 Negotiating Racial Issues
    (pp. 131-153)

    Black students had to navigate social relationships both with other blacks on campus and with whites, and each group posed different challenges. Blacks in this study did not all define and present themselves in the same way. Their identities differed because of such factors as social class, the degree of centrality of blackness to their identities, and skin tone, and these differences added complexity to blacks’ relationships with one another. In developing connections with whites, blacks had to cope with their own distrust and with concerns about where they stood, how they would be received, and whether whites had their...

  12. 9 As the Year Ended
    (pp. 154-168)

    As the academic year drew to a close, students in the study were asked to reflect on how the year had gone for them academically and socially. How had they fared academically, and did they think race and class had an influence on their academic experience? Had they found a place for themselves on campus, gotten involved in activities, and made a satisfying social adjustment? In what ways had race and class played a role in students’ relationships with families during the year? Did race and class make a difference to maintaining ties with family, friends, and communities left behind?...

  13. 10 Meeting the Challenges of Diversity
    (pp. 169-184)

    Like many elite colleges and universities, Amherst is going to great lengths and expense to identify and attract to campus talented students who are not affluent and white. Its efforts are directed at offering opportunities for social and economic mobility to these students, at providing some measure of social equity. Bringing a diverse group of students to campus also creates opportunities for all students to have their previous notions of race and class challenged, and their understandings deepened, through interactions with one another. Opportunities abound. What actually happens? In following 58 students, black and white, affluent and lower-income, through their...

  14. Appendix A On-Line Survey Measures
    (pp. 185-188)
  15. Appendix B Interview Questions
    (pp. 189-192)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 193-218)
  17. References
    (pp. 219-230)
  18. Index
    (pp. 231-234)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)