When Bearcat is Your Bruff
By: Elana Klein
During the college search, many of us took a school’s proximity to a city into consideration. For some, this meant getting excited about weekly Sunday brunch endeavors and a plethora of options on Postmates. For others, this invoked a sense of discomfort. Inevitably, a wealthy student body combined with easily accessible luxuries results in a culture of careless spending that not all students can keep up with.
Joining the Tulane Class of 2022 Facebook group made me (and as I found out after having this discussion with friends of mine, many others) reluctant to commit here. I remember seeing girls post about how their hobbies included shopping, eating out regularly, going to music festivals, and attending exercise classes. This way of life is entirely achievable for those who saw no problem in putting that into writing as an attempt to make friends. However, many members of the Facebook group couldn’t help but notice that the majority of these activities are exclusively accessible to those with mass amounts of disposable income.
It may come as a surprise to you that Shaya and Jazzfest aren’t actually hobbies. For many, entering an environment where people treat them as such puts a huge strain on their bank accounts. For others, this lifestyle is completely out of the question. Although the median income for the household of a Tulane student is $180,000, and 69% of the student body is composed of families in the top 20%, it is dangerous to make the assumption that everyone you meet can afford your spending habits.
Upon returning home for Thanksgiving, I was shocked to hear my friends at schools in upstate New York and rural Massachusetts talk enthusiastically about how much money they had saved since the beginning of the school year. They said things like, “Why would I need to buy food when I have a meal plan?”
And that’s when I realized that Tulane’s “normal” isn’t all that normal.
It’s not normal to take an Uber to get frozen yogurt multiple times a week; it’s not normal to buy Voodoo, Buku, and Jazzfest passes without a second thought; and it’s not normal for a group of 18-year-olds to eat at Josephine Estelle for no rhyme or reason. Although none of this is normal in the grand scheme of wealth, it definitely is at Tulane.
If this is your normal, you should be aware that this isn’t the case for most people in this country. At the very least, you should acknowledge that your lifestyle is out of reach for a vast majority of people you will encounter outside of the Tulane bubble.
At a place like Tulane, the phrase “broke college student” isn’t really a descriptor of the reality -- it’s a phrase you use when you’re running low on Wavebucks because you’re too afraid to use a swipe. It’s what you say when your parents send you a text asking you to spend less money on their card.
As much as many of us would rather not go to Bruff, a meal plan costs over three thousand dollars, and you must recognize that your ability to regularly order on Postmates despite Bruff’s high price tag is not practical for many. If that money is negligible to you and your family, I am not passing judgment or telling you to stop eating acai bowls. However, you must understand that you are being inadvertently classist when you eat out multiple times a day and roll your eyes when someone suggests Bruffing it. We go to school in an affluent bubble, and you are only further isolating yourself by spending your time exclusively with people who can spend money at the rate that you can.
Next time you make a plan that revolves around Ubers and sit-down dining, consider whether or not casual spending is feasible for your entire party. When inviting a new friend out to dinner, consider the fact that a decline to your suggestion could just be a testament to their inability to spend money on food.
Most importantly, consider whether or not your position in the scheme of socioeconomic classing, both at Tulane and in general, may be blinding you from the fact the fact that you are not living the typical life of a college student. If brunch at Bearcat, a spin class at Romney, and drinks at Bacchanal are characteristics of your Saturday, the least you can do is become aware that your pool of potential friends is shrinking.
I am by no means suggesting that Tulane students who cannot do these things are charity cases worthy of our pity -- any student at Tulane is inherently fortunate for their right to a higher education at this institution. Rather, I am calling attention to the distinction of privilege on campus. If this is not something you’ve thought about, all I ask is that you realize the implications of your day-to-day decisions that involve spending.