Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On Monday, October 19 at 4:30 p.m., a group of Swarthmore students and faculty came together in Bond Hall to discuss issues of class, income, and culture at a Story Telling Event. This event was part of the Swarthmore Organization for Low-Income Students (SOLIS) Class Awareness Week, an awareness campaign that was initiated “in order to help open up dialogue about class at Swarthmore,” says Barbara Pham ’16.
During the event, students and speakers sat in a circle in order to initiate dialogue and conversation, a configuration that contributed to the intimate setting. After students trickled into Bond Hall, the event began.
Speakers spoke about their personal stories and how their low-income background influenced their life in academia.
There were many commonalities amongst speakers from different backgrounds. Many students and faculty spoke of being informed by society and others that they were considered low-income, meaning that their disadvantages were not always clear to them.
One speaker stated that she “came from a place that didn’t allow [her] to operate in a place like Swarthmore,” and others spoke with similar sentiments. The experience of retelling these stories provided a safe space for listeners and speakers to share their stories and empathize with others.
Although speakers spoke about disadvantages and social stigma’s that “told [them] that everything indicated [they] didn’t belong” they also spoke about their “tough skin[s]” as one speaker put it, that allowed them to gain better perspective on themselves and others. Still, others spoke about the simple joys and lights that filled their home lives, despite their low-income status.
As one speaker noted, “people always make the mistake that the poor are this intangible population that is always unhappy.” Speakers at the event challenged norms about the abilities and perceptions of low-income students.
As speakers finished their storytelling, the remainder of the event consisted of a question and answer session, where both story tellers and event attendees spoke openly about the disadvantages and misconceptions that come with being a low-income student at Swarthmore, and the implications of such a background on the future of students.
SOLIS is a student-based group on campus that hosts events such as this Storytelling event throughout the year. This event was open to all students.