On the first Thursday of the spring semester each year, the College holds “Claiming Williams Day,” an event geared towards helping students feel like they belong at Williams. Different workshops explore identities on campus, and how those identities shape a student’s experience in college. Yet one identity, ignored for years, finally got its time to shine this year.
“Rich” kids, often mocked for their second homes and boarding school lifestyles, finally had a workshop where they could feel seen and heard. The workshop, entitled, “Inclusivity: The One Thing Daddy Can’t Buy” was attended by over 70 students, all hoping for a haven from the cruel taunting of their peers where they could unashamedly be their full, wealthy selves.
“Once I accidently let slip that I went to Martha’s Vineyard every summer,” said Charlie Hollanderhall. “The mockery was endless. People used hate speech like ‘bougie’ and ‘privileged’ to describe me. I think we can all recognize that as violent language. I’m so glad that now there’s a space for me where I can be comfortable.”
Activities at the workshop centered around reclaiming rich identities and finding rich pride. Each student had to create a mantra, and repeat it to themselves. Mantras included: “I’m not embarrassed by my Canada Goose jacket,” “I’m okay with telling people how many times I’ve been to Europe,” and “I went to Andover and I’m proud.” The second half of the lecture was arts and crafts. Each participant made their very own membership card to the “oppressed club,” previously the only club they couldn’t get into. They also made fancy little hats to honor the cultural past of the fancy little rich people that came before them.
Group discussions allowed students to share their experiences struggling with being wealthy. Many of the wealthy students expressed feelings of being misunderstood by the hoi polloi of campus. “Like, people hear I want to go into finance and they assume I’m selfish and spoiled,” said George Greylockquad. “Well joke’s on them because when I make it big I’m not giving them any of my money. Or donating any of it to charity,” he added, unprompted. This comment received an impassioned round of snapping from the group. “Whenever people find out I have money, they look at me differently,” said Lily Zilkhacenter. “It doesn’t affect how people treat me or change my life at all but it sure makes me feel a little weird and embarrassed sometimes, and that’s inconvenient.” It’s not like rich kids on campus can simply hop on a private jet and escape the prejudice of their classmates. There’s nowhere to land it.
Overall, the event was a delightful success for those involved. “I’m so glad this space exists for us rich folk to get together and complain,” said Catherine Williamstown as the workshop concluded. “It feels like I’m back home at the country club.”