Before I arrived at Vassar, I emptied out all of the Walmart grocery bags containing my recently purchased college supplies. I was afraid to look poor. I’m sure other arriving freshman felt the same way. I’m sure others were afraid to look too rich. A year earlier, however, I wrote my Common App essay about my strong pride for my poor, welfare-aided childhood. Why then, had my voice been silenced so succinctly? Was it me, or was it Vassar? The answer, obtained only after four years of critical psychological study and self-examination, is that I exhibited internalized class prejudice. I didn’t want to look poor because I didn’t want to be poor, at least not anymore. Little did I know, issues of class and privilege are much more systemic—I could not just perform a different identity. Though I’ve undergone much growth since then, much of my experience at Vassar has been marked by transcending class divides and building identity through diverse friendships and unique extracurricular opportunities.
Despite my lack of resources growing up, I had the privilege to be in several performance groups. To the Vastards: I love you all, thanks for transforming me as an individual through music, and for the memories (nude or not). I don’t know if I’d still be at Vassar with you all. To FWA: I’ve had some amazing experiences and I hope musical theater at Vassar continues to become more accessible. To the Limit: ya’ll make me happier than a wet tuna flopping in the Hudson. And finally, to anyone who has supported, even tolerated, my ever-changing projects and commitments: I told myself when I got here that I would access every performance opportunity given to me and I can happily say I’ve done that, perhaps in excess, so thank you.
Though I’ve found solace at Vassar through performance, I would be nothing without my solid foundation of friends. Thank you so much to my core (you know who you are) for the late-night hangouts and munchie sessions. Also, thanks for the many adventures, including a recent stay on a bathroom-less boat in Naples, Florida. More importantly, thank you for providing limitless support and empathy as I navigate the struggles of becoming an adult. I may cry a lot and in general just be really weird, but I hope I’ve given you good laughs and support.
My time at Vassar has been immeasurably fun, but it has also been challenging due to my lack of privilege and resources. I hope students, faculty and administration continue to address these issues. Need-blind admission is crucial to bridge these class divides, but it is just the first step. There are still numerous class-based inequalities in adolescent development and education before college.
Especially at Vassar, such inequalities continue to exist and provide educational and extracurricular barriers for students of low socioeconomic status, as well as other marginalized groups. If the students, faculty and administration are unable to be proactive in addressing these differences, then these individuals start to feel tokenized and the community begins to fracture. These issues are not just specific to students in our community, those who make this campus run have felt these same divides. And though I’ve unfortunately felt and witnessed these fractures, I’ve also seen growth in this institution over the past four years. I’m overjoyed to be at a place that encourages self-awareness and growth, and I hope this tradition continues.
Despite my natural inclination to be funny, it is Vassar that has taught me when it is important to be critical and when it is important to be grateful. And though writing this retrospective has been a tough foray into personal vulnerability that I’ve found rare at Vassar, I hope my fellow seniors as well as those still left at Vassar continue to share their stories and seek deep interpersonal connection. Thank you to my friends, educators, and to Vassar for giving me the overwhelming freedom for personal growth and for the wisdom to mindfully transverse the world now. I wish us all the best of luck and hope we all continue to grow as self-aware individuals.
—Roman Mohr is a psychology major and member of the Vastards.