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ISSUE 116 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2003

Sister Speaks

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 7, 2003

Dear Sister,

This weekend there was a pretty popular party known as ‘The White Trash Party’ held at someone’'s house off campus. Those in attendance even dressed up in clothes that supposedly resembled those in this economic situation. I had some concern about this because it just doesn’'t seem like something to be celebrated. Rather than a race issue, the idea of having such a party involves the issue of class. What values are students missing on campus to celebrate the idea of poor and unfortunate individuals? Sincerely, Speaking Up About Class

Dear Speaking Up,

I sympathize with your concerns about class after encountering such a gathering. It is an indication that people are a little more naive than we think and neglect to consider their actions and their affects on others. Although the term ‘"White Trash’" speaks specifically about whites, color is not an issue. The same concept would apply if the party was called a ‘ghetto’ party or a ‘barrio’ party. These terms bring racial connotations, but they have one universal theme: class.

By having parties like this– especially when one is inclined to dress up for it – the idea of being poor and unfortunate is sensationalized. As college students, many of us are struggling in spite of our financial situations. We are blessed enough to attend a college like St. Olaf, but that definitely doesn’'t give us the right to make fun of people who are less fortunate and who are forced to live different lives.

What amazes me is that people take it upon themselves to act in this way when they haven’t the slightest concept of what it is to be in such situations. This form of derogatory language and labels forms strictly out of stereotypes and myths. This behavior is a replica of the elitist scope of hierarchy that views those they don'’t identify with as “other.”

In this sense, a hostile view of the ‘other’ group is the celebrated one, not one showing a humane sentiment. Make sure you live your life helping people to step back and take a look at some of these negative biases and prejudices. Knowledge and change begin with dialogue, otherwise ignorance prevails.

Dear Sister,

I am a first-year Professional Exploration Program (PEP) student who has been hearing some misconceptions and disrespectful comments about students in the PEP program around my dorm. Many people believe that PEP students are students of color. Others have even gone so far as to say, “"If PEP students can’'t afford St. Olaf, then they should not be here."” Please set the record straight and explain what the program is all about. Sincerely, Angry Student

Dear Angry Student,

The Professional Exploration Program (PEP) is a component of a national program called TRIO. This program primarily consists of Educational Talent Search (ETS), Student Support Services (SSS), and Upward Bound. These programs are designed to assist needy students in achieving educational, career and networking goals throughout college. The criteria of eligibility has absolutely nothing to do with race. The three components include first generation students, federal income guidelines and those with disabilities.

Don’'t be ashamed if you fall under one of the categories. Disregard the inconsiderate comments, because they have no substance. They are simply false. The real facts are that 20 percent of St. Olaf students are first-generation and approximately 10 percent of the students meet the income requirement.

You are actually very lucky to be in a program such as PEP because you are connected with people who are employed to support and advise you over and above that of other students. When you hear comments like this, simply direct them to the PEP/SSS office in Flaten Hall so they can receive first-hand knowledge about this program instead of spreading hype.

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