Class clings to campus life

On Nov. 7, the Yale Daily News published a feature on socioeconomic class and campus life. The article stated that the “social gulf between students from low-income families and Yale’s predominately upper-middle-class culture is wide”.

While class divisions are less strict at Queen’s than at Yale, a similar situation exists here. Social class is a much larger part of a Queen’s experience than many would like to admit.

It’s important to note that Canada is much less economically polarized than the US, and Canadian universities usually draw students from a variety of backgrounds. In general, Canada does a better job of “leveling the playing field” than many other countries.

Despite these efforts, however, Queen’s remains a largely white school with a substantial percentage of fairly affluent students. While the average student may not fit that description, and individual experiences vary greatly, Queen’s prestigious reputation combines with its demographics to create a campus environment that can alienate and stigmatize those from lower economic classes.

Queen’s culture of class hierarchy is apparent when many students talk about non-student Kingston residents. While it’s occasionally used in a more benign manner, the word “townie” can be seen as a class-based slur.

The University may provide more opportunities for student employment than other schools, but the job demand is high and no one is guaranteed one.

Low-income students are sometimes forced to forgo prestigious positions in student government because the pay is not high enough for the time commitment.

Students who hold a job have substantially less time to socialize, further alienating them from their wealthier peers. Job or not, many simply find themselves excluded from Queen’s active nightlife.

As if that wasn’t enough, students also have to cope with a campus culture that expects fashionable consumption of name-brand consumer products and the ability to shell out thousands of dollars for long weekend trips or weeklong vacations.

Economic disparity is a fact of life, but Queen’s is particularly notable for its expectations and its culture of class hierarchy.

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