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Pay to play

| Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Saint Mary’s annual Junior Moms Weekend occurred this past weekend and I was left feeling a little out of sorts. And not just about the dry chicken served on Saturday night.

Let me explain. I am a junior and unfortunately my mother could not be present. However, my best friend’s mom could  — she’s in fact a Saint Mary’s alumna and the reason I am here at all. When I texted her asking to be my interim mother for the weekend, she cried! Imagine that. I was beyond excited to bring the person who got me so excited about Saint Mary’s, and even my future at all, back to her favorite place on earth. And so the time came. The days of activity, just Friday and Saturday, were beautiful.

At the reception where Interim President Nekvasil spoke for a maximum of two minutes, I couldn’t help but feel out of place. This is not an unusual feeling for me at Saint Mary’s, being the only Muslim and one of few out women on campus, but this felt different. I looked around. In the hundreds of mother-daughter pairings, there were only five or so units of color. Sure, there isn’t too much color at Saint Mary’s to begin with, but I know when girls are missing. And so many were. More were missing than were present. I had known that a lot of my favorite people on campus were unable to have their moms come out for the weekend but I could tell that a majority of the women of color in my grade were MIA.

Now, I cannot and will not speak for the girls that did not attend and I did not talk to, but there is something to be said for a good chunk of the “diversity” on campus not actively participating in campus life, for whatever reason. But really, it makes total sense. The girls who give SMC their quotas are mostly on major scholarships, here completely on merit. These girls are often first- or second-generation citizens and can be the first in their families to attend college or even high school, with parents often not having English as their first language.

Junior Moms Weekend is simply a luxury few can afford. Registration was $75 per person for a dinner and gift bags, but $75 is the beginning of the end. $150 plus transportation plus lodging plus all the meals not included plus taking time off work plus probably having someone to help take care of other children in the house? This wasn’t including drinks at O’Rourkes, Uber’s to and from Finnies, or even hoping to participate in the auction that is funding our Senior Week with bids starting at $35-$100. The list goes on. This gate was being completely kept and it was painfully obvious who wasn’t invited in: Those who were promised equity in experience

I was so sad to not be around the people I can most relate to on campus while bonding with someone I truly admire. But the thing that made me even more distraught? That when I started to think about it, I could be disappointed, but I couldn’t be surprised. Of course it was pay to play; everything here is. I argued with myself, “Anisah, what do you expect from this place? It’s a private institution.” But after mulling it over, I know now: I expect to see my community that I was promised, at every event. I expect that everyone will be able to have the opportunity to participate in school-sanctioned events, that the promise of community and sisterhood will be pursued to the highest degree. That is what I was told when I came here, that is what my family pays for, so why is it my money is devalued here? Even if we pay in scholarships, the money is still there and we sacrifice the opportunities at much browner institutions for a promise that is yet to be fulfilled. We have every right to experience the entirety of what our universities, that we pay for and give diversity and prestige to, have to offer.

Anisah Elsayed-Awad

Saint Mary’s College class of 2020

April 17

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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