How the Assumptions of Teachers Hurt Students

Anyone who has taken a class at Wheaton knows that supplies are outrageously priced. By supplies I mean books, lab costs, paints and other items needed for certain classes. In all honesty, I’ve been rather lucky as an English major; I can get most of my books from the library. But what about the students who can’t?

What about when the campus library, or any library, cannot loan me the book, because a professor has demanded a specific edition, for a good reason or simply because it is the newest?

Most teachers have an almost insultingly simple answer: buy the books. Buy them, rent them or ask your parents to do either. And again I ask, what about the students who can’t?

Throughout my four years at Wheaton, I’ve been educated on the many privileges that I hold, as a white woman, as a cis-gendered individual, and more. For all of those lessons, I am grateful. One privilege I have never had is an economic privilege.

I always knew I couldn’t attend a school that didn’t understand my needs as a lower middle class, first-generation student. And I’m thankful for the financial support that Wheaton has given me through scholarships and financial aid. But a constant hurdle I have to jump through is book costs. Not notebooks, because those I can find at the Dollar Tree. Not clothes, because I can always go to a thrift store. I’ve hoarded non-perishable foods, squeezed shampoo bottles ‘til they couldn’t give me another drop. But no matter how long you search, you can’t find the umpteenth edition of that one book, edited by that one specific person at Goodwill or a dollar store.

From the voice of a student, to the ears of academic administration, please hear that we cannot all “make it work.” Sometimes it’s the cost of a loan payment versus two or three books. Sometimes it’s medicine versus a new paint set. The phrase has been said: “this is the grave you dug, now lie in it.” But why should we, who have worked so much harder to even stand in these overpriced hallways, lay in the graves that society dug for us, through economic instability handed down through generations? Are we punished with the undue stress of to-the-last-dollar budgeting for wanting to dig ourselves out?

There is no lack of professors who have been empathetic enough to be lenient, to bend where some might break. Allowing students to use earlier, often cheaper, editions when available, to provide PDFs online or library reservations for required texts. Even the incredibly simple act of allowing students the use of Ebooks(often free when the text is decades old), can mean the world to a student struggling financially. And yes, it is well worth a few students taking advantage of computer access during class.

So a big thank you to those professors who have the courage to make financial accommodations for students in need. And to those who don’t, there is learning that needs to be done as well as growth. Because if you can’t be bothered to help uplift someone who has less than you, in a way as small as an Ebook, how can you expect to teach the generation that will?