At first glance it might appear that a study of first generation students would naturally reflect a racial relationship and race would be the “ism” that is most influential on first generation students’ university attrition. This is especially true when the focus of the study is turned toward historically black colleges and universities. Additionally, a case could be built for the racial “ism” aspect of the study by focusing on the history of HBCU and the large concentration of first generation African Americans that attend predominately Black schools. However, in developing the idea for the proposed research, the “ism” which has the most meaning and connectivity to the topic is classism.
Historically, classist behavior has been present since the very inception of our country. This may be documented by the deplorable treatment and marginalization of the Native Americans by the early colonists’ (Zinn, 2009). Again, the classism topic has found renewed media interest with political candidate Romney’s 2012 forty-seven percent comment (Good, 2013 ) and the controversy rapper/entertainer, Kanye West’s television interview reference to “classism as the new racism” (Kanye: 'Classism' Is, October 9, 2013). Sam Fulwood (2012) in his article, The Brick Wall, affirms that on today’s campuses, indeed, “Class Trumps Race” (p. 15). In an interview with Fulwood, Thomas J. Espenshade, Princeton author, states that on his campus the backlash against affirmative action and race-based attempts to attract nontraditional students have been displaced by class-based diversity as the coveted form of recruitment and admission and race-based effort foci are now passé.
Janet Zandy (1996) describes class as “an aspect of shared economic circumstances and shared social and cultural practices in relationship to positions of power shapes our lives and intersects with race, ethnicity, gender and geography in profound ways” (p. 247). An inclusive, contemporary, comprehensive and illustrative definition of actual classism is provided by the social activist, nonprofit organization, Class Action:
Classism is differential treatment based on social class or perceived social class. Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups. It’s the systematic assignment of characteristics of worth and ability based on social class. ….Classism is held in place by a system of beliefs and cultural attitudes that ranks people according to economic status, family lineage, job status, level of education, and other divisions. Middle-class and owning- or ruling-class people (dominant group members) are seen as smarter and more articulate than working-class and poor people (subordinated groups)…(What is Classism, p. 1).
As research is begun which has classism as a foundation, William Ming Lui’s (2006), well recognized class and classism researcher, precautions must be taken into consideration. In a stringent article critique...