It’s that time of year when campus is about to be filled with family members coming from all over to see their children graduate from one of the top universities in the country. The restaurants and hotels are all going to be full and the town will be booming. That is, of course, for all the students that have families that can afford it.

For the students at the University who don’t come from families with money, the cost of travel to and accommodations in Ann Arbor will make it more difficult to celebrate this meaningful occasion with loved ones. Seeing that this is the case, the University should be cognizant and supportive of students that already have difficulties adjusting to and feeling welcomed on a campus of which 62.3 percent of the student body come from households that make over $100,000 a year, in comparison to the 11 percent U.S. national average.

When I, as a graduating senior, received an e-mail about the commencement brunch being offered through the University Unions to graduating students and their families, I thought this might finally be a sign of support for low-income students by offering a low-cost option. Upon opening the e-mail I realized that this could not be further from the truth. The University told me to celebrate like a “True Wolverine” by spending $32 a plate (not including tax or gratuity), which I can tell you that my single mother of two could never afford. Since there is no feasible way that my family could pay for meals at an Ann Arbor restaurant around one of the busiest times of year, it would have been nice for the University to offer another option for families such as mine to have a memorable celebration. After all, if it weren’t for the fact that my family lives just over an hour away, they wouldn’t even be able to afford to see me graduate.

The issue of classism at the University has seeped into all areas of campus life. The commencement brunch is simply one example. I cannot tell you how many times that nervous awkward feeling has come over me when I hear a professor say that I am required to buy a $75 course pack (in which many of the readings can be found elsewhere online) or that I should expect to go over my allocated printing pages this semester, since they do not accept e-mailed attachments. Furthermore, while I’m fortunate enough to have my own laptop, I cringe every time a professor expects that every student has their own to bring to class. In terms of the student body, I constantly feel outside of the norm when my peers tell me that I should just wait to go to the expensive restaurants until my parents (always plural, ever heard of single parents?) come into town and can buy it for me. Or how about when Christmas break comes around and everyone is talking about how excited they are to go to a warm house, sleep in their big comfy beds and have their laundry done for them? If only they knew that my house is kept warm by keeping our oven open and that we have had to use the laundromat since I was in middle school. It is this expectation that all the students here come from the same background, a background of money, an expectation that I’m quite frankly tired of. It needs to change.

Despite all of this, I’ve found ways to feel supported and empowered to take advantage of many opportunities that I only dreamed of before coming to the University. So don’t get me wrong — I’ve had a wonderful and life-changing experience here that I reflect on with a deep sense of gratitude and will greatly miss. Every hour I have spent at the library and at my part-time job, in addition to my involvement with different events and departments on campus, has all been worth it. Yet at the culmination of my four years, through which I have often felt the marginalization of being a student of the lower class, I’m saddened to come to the realization that I will never be fully welcomed or accepted by the University as a “True Wolverine.”

I am not asking for pity, I am asking for awareness and active engagement. Take advantage of places where issues such as these are discussed, such as the Program on Intergroup Relations or the Residential Staff, and create more spaces as well. And let’s be clear that this does not stop with issues of class. If the University wants to live up to the standard of diversity and inclusion that it sets for itself, these issues need to come to the forefront of a campus-wide conversation about the experiences of this campus’s minority groups.

Celine Smith is an LSA senior.

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