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As plans for a new major on socioeconomic status move forward, responses gathered by an LSA Student Government poll have demonstrated high student interest. The major is tentatively slated to be implemented in 2018 or 2019.

LSA sophomore Lauren Schandevel, who is currently working with a team of students to create the major, summarized the results of the poll in an email interview, noting LSA students’ interest in introducing a new social class course or program, as well as increased measures taken by the school to focus on the matter.

“Last week, LSA Student Government sent out a survey that received the following responses from 67 participants: 97 percent are in favor of having a new course on social class, 97 percent are in favor of having a social class program and 93.8 percent believe that LSA should do more to address the subject,” Schandevel said.

LSA sophomore Emily Zonder, who is also working to create the major, said the way current programs look at class inhibits people from seeing the whole story.  

“We would love to create an opportunity for students to study social class in a way that is holistic and complete,” Zonder said. “One of the problems we see on campus right now is that when we study class, we all too often only look at one side of the picture, which is poverty. To truly understand social class and its implications in the world and in our own lives, we need to look at more than that. We need to look at the entire system.”

The major’s importance, in addition to aiding in understanding of social class, can also be seen in its uniqueness, LSA sophomore Meaghan Wheat said. Wheat is also part of the team of students working on developing the major.

“There are centers for poverty research, but there isn’t a program within any university that we’ve found that really studies it the way that we wish to, which is all encompassing and inclusive of different classes,” Wheat said. “We think that class, in a lot of ways, is an invisible identity and you really can’t measure it by looking at someone, but it really measures so many different aspects of our life.”

The team said moving forward, they plan to map out what the major would look like.

“(The students working on this proposal) are all planning on taking an independent study next year under a professor at the School of Social Work, Barry Checkoway” Wheat said. “We are going to plan a curriculum for the intro course and capstone, and our goal right now is to create a pathway for students who really wish to study class like this. Currently the plan is within Sociology, and is tentative, with a lot of different departments like American Culture and History involved as well.”

Schandevel added that they were also reaching out to various departments and faculty members to help in the planning process.

“Right now, we’re reaching out to department heads of Women’s Studies, Sociology and American Culture to plan a program Nadine Hubbs ‘Thinking Class’ course as the intro — ideally — and a capstone, which we will develop and propose along with the program proposal at the end of next semester,” she said.

Wheat said faculty support had been an area of concern previously, but professors have so far been encouraging about the planning recently.

“It has a lot of faculty support, and everyone is very receptive to the idea,” Wheat said. “It has helped a lot with the sustainability concern, because now we have a foundation of faculty and student support.”

Zonder said she thinks this major would be an important addition to the current course list offered by the University of Michigan, as social class is an important topic of conversation and students would benefit from learning about it in a classroom setting.

“We want to carve out a space on this campus for a conversation on social class, class privilege, capitalism and other related concepts to exist,” she said. “We believe that changing the way we talk and learn about social class is one of the first steps that we, as students, can take to address some of the larger societal injustices that we see in the world right now and will undoubtedly continue to see in the coming years, and advocating for this type of course of study is our way of doing that.”

 

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