At Marlborough, it is easy to get lured into a false sense of homogeneity on campus. Our uniform serves as an equalizer. It plays a large part in ensuring that elitism and classism do not act as barriers or divisive forces.
However, enforced uniformity poses a certain question: if Marlborough is truly an inclusive community where open dialogue is meant to be a staple of peer communication, what is the dress code truly promoting? Clothing restrictions do not make class difference disappear. If anything, Marlborough’s promotion of “sameness” actually hinders our ability to discuss socioeconomic status without experiencing overwhelming discomfort.
Approximately 17 percent of the Marlborough student body is on financial aid. Just by writing this, I feel as if I am exposing something that is too personal to reveal to the entire student body. There is a multitude of reasons why I have been made to feel like my socioeconomic bracket is something to refrain from introducing into polite conversation.
The misguided assumption that everyone is wealthy is reinforced in many of Marlborough’s most beloved traditions. Although we are not required to buy a class ring, purchase a senior sweatshirt, and shell out enough cash for expensive class trips like College Tour, there is a general assumption that every Marlborough girl will partake in these activities.
Why is it that we have to consistently spend frivolous amounts of money to feel included in the school community? In terms of diversity issues, Marlborough has become a place where gender, race, religion, politics, and sexual orientation have all weaved their way into the school’s collective consciousness. I think this is partially because race, religion, and sexual orientation do not impact our ability to access a top-notch private school education.
Wealth is still expected, and large sums of money are required to attend a school like Marlborough. By enforcing a school environment that never addresses socioeconomic status, Marlborough only feeds the pervasive assumption that all students are of equal financial means.
As a student body that is committed to being socially aware, we have an obligation to talk through our discomfort surrounding money and assume that we live in a diverse community in all respects, despite the homogeneity our uniforms strive to promote.
So here it goes. I am Kelsey Henry. I am on financial aid. I should never have to be ashamed of where I come from, and I should never feel obligated to hide this part of myself from my peers. Sometimes all it takes is one voice to be less afraid of honesty. Maybe my voice can be that one. So come on. Speak.
Don’t judge me, but I always joke with my friends that before coming to Marlborough, I didn’t know people could get this rich.
But seriously. Inflatable beach balls at WinterFest that rolled around vendors such as a gourmet ice cream sandwich truck. Free sweatshirts to appease any hard feelings about pending construction. Free lunches! And that’s not even talking about our school culture, which oftentimes unabashedly radiates affluence. Girls at our school get new cars for their sixteenth birthdays. We attend summer programs with lofty price tags that reach the range of a few thousand dollars. The tangy swirls of overpriced Pinkberry are necessities in our ways of life.
Don’t worry – I’m not here to cajole you into giving up your materialistic ways, or to probe at your conscience until you throw up your hands and declare, “It isn’t me!” in a guilt-ridden haste. In fact, I hope we’re all aware of the fact that, ladies, we all have it quite good in our little bubble-world that is Marlborough.
And, as we all know, money makes the world go round, as lots of good stuff comes at prices that need to be paid by someone…
The wealth of our school community pays for the tremendous opportunities and privileges we receive at our school. Think about it: in the past half a year, we’ve encountered CEOs, district attorneys, political activists, and ambassadors at our school assemblies. Last year, I attended an opera for the first time thanks to a donation from an alumna without having to spend a dime of my own money.
As the beneficiaries of the perks that exist due to the bang of the buck, we should always couple our marveling at the money of our school community with immense appreciativeness. It’s too easy to forget the thanks that’s due and judge extravagant expenditure habits. Too many times do we stereotype the affluent members of our community to be shallow or careless, and we forget that just because one can afford to spend doesn’t make her any less smart, compassionate, generous, or kind than the best of us in our school.
That being said, those of us in our school community who can’t afford to give donations or to emulate the expensive lifestyles of some peers shouldn’t feel any less sense of belonging. If you can afford to spend money in this economic climate, great and thank you. If you can’t, that’s okay too. Finances, whether one has them, shouldn’t make anyone feel inferior, superior, uncomfortable, or guilty.
The opportunity that the money from some privileged pockets present is the true beauty of our school and is in essence the great equalizer of the Marlborough School experience.