A Safe School for Elitism

By OWEN CARLSON

No doubt, the Colorado College vs. University of Denver hockey rivalry is one of the best viewing experiences that this school has to offer. It’s one of those rare occasions in which CC students are able to be real fans and get as rowdy as possible. Given the chance, we are good spectators. When DU rolls around, we capably fulfill the duties expected of fans, namely supporting our team and putting down the other. While it’s fun to hurl harsh invective to damage an adversary’s sense of self-worth, one chant we do is particularly tactless, and is representative of one of CC’s largest downfalls.

Anyone that’s been to one of our rivalry games has heard the safety school chant. Unfortunately for CC students, it is as uncreative as it is boorish. We yell two words at them, “safety school,” and I cover my face, suddenly not too enthused to be a Tiger. The insinuation of this chant is that, since DU is a less selective institution than CC, we who were admitted to CC are inherently superior. This could not be further from the truth, and that we might believe it shows we are severely lacking in character.

Illustration by Annabel Driussi

It’s no secret that the quality of schooling one receives is closely linked with socioeconomic status. The best high schools, college counseling, and test prep are all luxuries reserved for the rich, giving the upper echelons of society a leg up in the race for college admissions. Furthermore, paying for a school such as CC, for most people, is a financially irresponsible decision. The fact that you are attending CC likely has something to do with your income, which makes bragging about it incredibly poor manners.

Nobody should have to tell you that being born into a wealthy family is nothing to be proud of. By all means, be proud of your parents, but in no way does having more money make you better than anyone. Fortunately, most students at CC would agree with this. However, joining in on the safety school chant is essentially saying the same thing. We appear to be either ignorant or uncaring of the elitism which envelops our school, which needs to change.

A first step is to make sure we all understand what kind of institution we attend. Colorado College has one of the most economically privileged student bodies in the country. About a fourth of us come from the top 1% of income earners, compared to only a tenth that come from the bottom 60%. Ever wonder why every third person seems to have a house in Aspen? Our favorite activity is skiing, arguably the most expensive sport that doesn’t include horses and silly hats, which some CC students partake in as well. Taking a vacation is an upper-class concept, and we take one every three and a half weeks. 

Colorado College is a terrific school. Much of what makes it great is derived from how much the school is willing to spend per student. We find it important to cap classes at 25 students, even though a professor can teach a class of 50 with no change to subject matter. Colorado College could increase the number of students in each class if it wanted to, delivering a similar quality of instruction to more people, but it won’t.

The answer to why is unsubtly displayed on our website. The college’s goal is, “providing the finest liberal arts education in the country,” a concept that will naturally exclude many from participation.  The liberal arts colleges of America are constantly competing with each other to have the best facilities and professors to hopefully attract the best students. Why do schools want to attract the best students? Their main goal is to be prestigious, inevitably leading to more expensive tuition, and wealthy students, as systemic inequalities mean that they get the best preparation. The good of society has lost its importance and schools have lost sight of their original objective: disseminating knowledge. Colleges are not interested in delivering quality education to the masses, but instead in delivering an excellent education to a select group.

It’s a strange concept that individuals donate to an organization that benefits the wealthy rather than one that helps the needy. One can argue that CC is a non profit created by the elite, for the elite. While the true intentions behind CC are likely more nuanced and idealistic, we can’t deny the concept has a shred of truth.  

Colorado College students enjoy a large amount of privilege, and we must act accordingly. Just like alcoholism, the first step to fixing institutional inequality is admitting that it is a problem. While we do many things well, CC is stuck in an elitist rut, and it is unclear how many find this to be an issue. One need not look any further for evidence of this than attending a hockey game. While we students currently have little agency over CC’s policy, we can work to change our culture by remembering to conduct ourselves in a compassionate and thoughtful manner. Treating others as equals is not that hard. Stay classy, CC.

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