Don’t ignore the class divide at Kent State

When we were children, we were told the United States is the land of opportunity, where we could see our dreams realized.

Yet there were always barriers that kept us in place.

Don’t shop at that store. Don’t be friends with them. Stay out of that neighborhood. Look, but don’t touch.

Regardless of which end of the income spectrum you were raised in, chances are you heard many variations of such statements.

Children find it difficult to understand wealth, but as they get older, they notice which students dress better or which of their friends have bigger houses, less stressed parents or more vacations.

By the time you turned 18, you probably had surrounded yourself with people whose experiences you could relate to and whose financial situations reminded you of yours. Or you may have gone through high school embarrassed by your family’s finances.

Either way, it may be difficult for you to understand those whose situations differ from your own and when you entered college, it may have seemed as though class was not an issue at Kent State. But take a closer look.

Notice that students who have to pay to get through school aren’t often close with those whose parents pay. Notice how those who live off campus to save money aren’t joining student groups or leaving their marks at Kent State. Notice how those with more disposable incomes can join groups that require fees or dues.

This is not a rule without exceptions, but it doesn’t help when such groups are criticized, their members are quick to proclaim that everyone else is just jealous of them and the contacts and references their memberships guarantee.

It’s easy to overlook our differences and see several thousand people gathered for the common goal of securing a future. For those with more money, it’s difficult to not assume that everyone has the same access to resources and just chooses not to take advantage of them.

It’s important to remember Kent State derives much of its character from the diversity of backgrounds and incomes students bring with them. In some ways, it’s essential that we recognize and appreciate our differences, rather than assume everyone is the same.

In the professional world, we will not be surrounded only by those with whom we share common backgrounds. We will work with people whose lives are unfathomably different from ours. Teachers, journalists, nurses, politicians, performers and students of every other discipline studied at Kent State, make their lives out of relating to and interacting with all kinds of people. Learning how to appreciate diversity of income is often not taught in class, which is why the university atmosphere is so important. Your fellow students are your best teachers.

It would be a shame for students to leave Kent State without learning from each other how to value diversity and individuality. Consider this your practice run.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.