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Class Action Visits Harvard for Workshop on Class Divides

Phillips Brooks House Association was one of several sponsors of an event about classism.
Phillips Brooks House Association was one of several sponsors of an event about classism. By Amy Y. Li
By Grace Lin and Cassandra Luca, Contributing Writers

Class Action, a national non-profit focused on educating people about classism, hosted a workshop for undergraduates Wednesday evening upon invitation from students.

The workshop highlighted how socioeconomic class affects students, both here at Harvard and more broadly.

Ben I. Sorkin ’20 organized the event, which was co-sponsored by the Harvard Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the Undergraduate Council, the Harvard First Generation Student Union, the Phillips Brooks House Association, and Fuerza Latina.

Sorkin said he wanted to hold this event to increase awareness of class issues and class dialogue on campus, and reached out to Class Action to make it happen.

Dee Moore, an associate at Class Action, and Shane Lloyd, a senior trainer at Class Action and the Assistant Director of the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale University, led the discussion.

Moore said Class Action focuses on building awareness around classism in the U.S. through workshops with students, nonprofits, and companies, speaking to everyone from kindergarteners to corporate executives.

“Class can be a really murky construct, because we can be talking about so many different things, but still talking past each other,” Lloyd said at the start of the workshop.

Sorkin said the UC supported the event through an Open Harvard College Grant, UC money set aside to fund innovative events around key issues including “financial accessibility.”

Workshop participants read quotations from various slides, all of which commented on class in different ways, illustrating that class does not necessarily have a common identity.

Part of the presentation featured past and current examples of class-related issues at Harvard, including social organizations and final clubs, class divides at the Harvard Business School, and last year’s Harvard University Dining Services worker strike.

Sorkin said he thinks the workshop came to Harvard at a “critical time.”

“I think we’re reaching a tipping point where issues of class and socioeconomic difference can’t go under the radar anymore,” he said. “Students are speaking up and these issues are playing themselves out publicly. Hopefully by providing an educational workshop, students and student leaders can really address these issues among their peers and in their student groups.”

Beyond the workshop, Sorkin said he hopes administrators will receive training and student groups will continue discussions in order to broaden understandings the difficulties some students might face.

“I’m hoping that either the UC adopts a class awareness training for student leaders or the administration institutes regular workshops, so that people are sensitive to these issues—not just students who are affected by them but also people in positions of power,” Sorkin said.

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