Indicator Demonstrates Institutional Classism
By Ashley Hogan '11
The Indicator’s recent article, “Income Inequality in the U.S.,” reflects the prevalent classism at Amherst College, and publishing such insular and offensive material seems to contribute to the institution’s difficulty in attaining economic diversity that is meaningful both on and off paper.

The article’s foremost problem is the vantage point from which it examines the phenomena of income inequality. Focusing on the disparity (or, as this article argues, lack thereof) in the material consumption of the upper and lower classes is misplaced and discounts far more serious injustices. The accompanying illustration distills the article’s narrow-mindedness, as it assumes that the most troubling aspect of income inequality is the inability to purchase “neat stuff.” The implication that income inequality needn’t be addressed for its unequal access to life-sustaining goods and services such as nutritious food and affordable health care is baffling considering 15 percent of American homes are food insecure and 46 million Americans are uninsured. Even the “life-improving” goods and services the article cites are superficial " electronics and air conditioning instead of access to higher education and tools for career development. Considering its inclusion in a college publication, the article should be more concerned that only 10 percent of students at the top 146 colleges come from the bottom half income bracket, not whether or not one can afford a flat-screen television.

Approaching the article objectively, it is an all-too-familiar case of The Indicator over-reaching its journalistic abilities in the realm of national and international issues. The article is severely lacking in research, as it quotes no numerical support for its claims and never refers to professional texts or expert viewpoints on the matter. One also senses a deficiency in relevant experiential evidence. The closest the article comes to pursuing true journalistic intent is professing to thinking “very hard about this issue,” which may be enough for a blog post or conversing with friends, but should not be tolerated as sufficient for a publication of this institution.

Also, the tone of these flimsy and imprudent arguments is insensitive and brazenly tactless. Sure to dispel any lingering uncertainty in the reader, the article makes it clear that it’s not suggesting “it doesn’t suck to be poor” or that the “rich don’t have a good time.” This language is demeaning and elitist, as it implies the absence of dignity in being a member of the lower class, while also touting the leisurely advantages of the upper class.

The Indicator’s willingness to publish an article with little regard for journalistic quality or consideration of their fellow students is unfortunately not as shocking as it should be. Classist and discriminatory attitudes seem to underlie many of the institution’s policies, as seen in the grossly unequal monetary distribution to clubs and organizations, the Career Center’s shortcomings in supporting diverse career paths and the imbalance of support and access among many academic departments. Instead of accepting that “inequality is here to stay” at Amherst, we should actively and respectfully discuss and work to minimize the “hostile climate” employed to legitimize the persistence of these inequalities.

Issue 18, Submitted 2011-03-09 02:53:19