A photo of Amy Poehler’s book “Yes Please” posed next to a Boston College baseball cap appeared rather innocuously on the BC Instagram page just a week ago. The photo’s caption, which encouraged students to post their own vacation photos with the hashtag #BConBreak, was perceived to be hardly as harmless.
Shortly after the photo’s posting, a follower commented that the regram competition was unfairly skewed in favor of “students who have the resources to travel, while alienating those who have to work for the summer.” Many less fortunate students, working full-time jobs to afford the high cost of a BC education, may not have the luxury of such Insta-ready moments, she argued.
At face value, the comment seems trivial: a complaint about the unfairness of an informal Instagram competition. But, skim off the surface and the response is no longer about Instagram, nor is it really about summer vacation. It’s just one drop in the ocean of an inescapable conversation about privilege at BC.
Considering that only about 7% of the world’s population ever receives a college education, just to be attending a 4-year college makes every BC student vastly privileged. Yet, there is still a pervasive sense that not all college students are created equal, and this disparity becomes especially visible during the summer months.
While many students set off on worldwide adventures, traveling internationally for fun or for internships, many others return home to work full or part-time jobs.
As someone in the latter category, when I stumbled upon the debated Instagram photo and the ensuing thread of comments, at first I found myself strongly identifying with the rather embittered comment about the “alienation” of working students.
It was easy enough for me to be jaded and bitter that my choice of summer plans wasn’t really a choice after all. As I watched friends of mine head off on adventures that I saw as being much more enthralling than my own minimum-wage job, I was a regular fountain of cliché middle class complaints.
It appeared to me that per usual, the so-called “privileged” BC students -- a seeming majority -- had triumphed, taking advantage of opportunities accessible to me only in my dreams.
“I’ll be working my butt off all summer, just like I do all year ‘round,” another follower chimed in, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy hearing about other people’s travels… I certainly don’t feel offended or slighted by seeing someone else have something I don’t have.”
Just like the first response, this comment addressed the financial inequality present at BC (and any other college for that matter). But, in this alum’s opinion, privilege is not something to feel put off or grossly wronged by.
Taken from this perspective, just as before, all BC students are not equal. Some are limited by financial barriers that others do not face – a straightforward, albeit hard-to-swallow reality. But that does not mean we can’t celebrate the experiences of others that we ourselves don’t have.
What we all as college students and BC Eagles do have are our own unique opportunities to learn, to create our own adventures and to find value in our own experiences this summer.
Traveling presents an opportunity to learn about navigating abroad and seeking to better understand other cultures. Applying for and working a job has so far taught me how to be persistent, to advocate for myself, to be adaptable and, most challengingly, to have a little more patience for the (rather abundant) needs and requests of others.
Eagles are everywhere, just as the BC Instagram often enthusiastically states. They’re taking a summer course in Kuwait, travelling across Europe, venturing into internships, working jobs and pocketing pennies.
So, I propose we each soak up our own experiences, whatever they may be, celebrate one another’s, and we can all meet back on the Heights when September finally rolls around.