What is a Disenfranchised Student?

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So, with this whole scandal and debate about college students and admissions, it has got me thinking a lot about my time in college, both in undergrad, and now as a grad student.

On top of that, because of the scandal, I’m hearing a lot of the “White privilege” argument. So it’s got me asking myself a lot about my time in school – This article is not going to try to say that white privilege doesn’t exist, because it does.

This article is actually about me asking, What is a first generation student?

Who deserves resources?

What groups are being forgotten?

Let me explain my situation with college. I am not the first generation of my family to go to college. My parents were the first (which is rather normal in America, so I’m going to make this about my parents being “first gen” or anything)

I am, however, the first in my family to go to what I’m going to call ‘real college’. My parents went to the local university in my hometown. This university is what’s considered a “not ranked” school. Meaning, it’s not competitive and it lets anyone in. Your ACT and SAT scores don’t matter, they don’t require any essays to be written, no recommendation letters – nothing. This university will even have billboards up during the first week of classes that saying things like “Classes have only just begun! You can still enroll! Call now!” 

Students and tourists rest in lawn chairs in Harvard Yard, the open old heart of Harvard University campus

Back when my parents were in school, college was also much different. They paid their way through full-time school with their part-time jobs – Something that can’t be done today. They both lived at home as they attended school (as many in my hometown do) and after graduating, their part-time jobs turned to full-time and so they never had to deal with internships and applying to jobs “within their field” and all of that.

In recent years, this particular school admits tons of low-income and minority students. To make sure that these students don’t drop out, the university has instated a massive grading curve. So a B- student becomes an A+ student leading the class.

So, my point is this: Yes, may parents wen to “college”. But they had never gone to anything that resembles what Americans think colleges are.

I was the first in my family to have to save up for college while in high school. I was the first to take an ACT test. I was the first to write admissions essays. The first to need letters of recommendation. The first to leave my hometown. The first to live in a dorm on campus. The first to compete for internships. And now, the first to attend graduate school.

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I had no help or guidance on these things, because nobody in my family had ever done any of it before. So, am I a first generation student? 

And if not, what am I?

I think of all the mistakes I made while in school. All the things I didn’t know. I went from being harassed for being gay every single day in my hometown by my peers, to suddenly living in a building with hundreds of them. My parents had never had an internship before and had no idea what and internship actually consisted of. I didn’t know what entering a job market looked like. There’s so much I didn’t know. So much I didn’t understand. And so much I did wrong, out of ignorance.

But because I’m a white male who’s parents technically attended college, nobody ever paid a single ounce of attention to me. There was no help. No resources. No programs. No groups.

Nothing.

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And it’s still hard. It’s hard that in this 2019 environment, anytime I open my mouth about a difficulty I’ve been through, everyone just moans and groans, and gives you this “UGH, ANOTHER WHITE PERSON WHO THINKS THEY HAVE PROBLEMS….”

So, the question becomes: Are we still forgetting about students? 

Is there a group of young people out there that society is assuming is doing fine, but is actually lost? Are there people out who need help but don’t know where to go, and feel as though they have no options?

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I think we can all admit that my college situation is very different from Felicity Huffman’s daughter. So why is it just assumed that all white people are the same?

Our society needs to focus on race. We needed affirmative action to get people of color into schools and jobs. We need groups for minority students who are disenfranchised. We need funded programs for first gen students, I am in no way saying that needs to stop. 

What I am saying though, is that there are disenfranchised white people too. Liberalism and #Wokeness has seemed to become just as blinded by anger against whites as the racists they claim to hate. The world isn’t as clear and simple as “White people get everything, colored people get nothing.” We won’t solve real problems that way.

Oppression comes in various forms for different people. Oppression, discrimination, domination can come in forms beyond race – there’s age, wealth, sexuality, gender, history of abuse, mental illness, religion, and more. It’s complex. It’s messy. It’s shitty.

But it’s reality. 

Harvard campus with brilliant fall foliage

So, I pose this question to the world.

What do we do?

How do we ensure that we’re helping all people who need it. How do we help prevent people from falling through the cracks of society?

How do we help make things better?

 

~ The Dark Horse

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