Dear Alumni, Whom I Love:
‘Thank you so much for your support’ — which has, today, granted me a polite one or overstepping two cider donuts. These donuts are essential. When I bite into one and get lost in its somehow both fluffy and dense center, I forget for an instant that I am placing myself as indebted to you in order to obtain a plain gray tank top.
‘You have helped make my Amherst education possible,’ as I am reminded by Donor Relations every semester. It is good to check my luck every once in a while and it is right to repay generous donors, like yourself, who have invested in financially-dependent students, like myself. It is my hope that these letters alleviate your concerns of proper investment by sharing with you, in intimate detail, the life to which you have given light.
I think it was one of my professors who told me that things are more meaningful when they are not coerced. This is to say, I hope Donor Relations’ thinly-veiled, emailed threat that “if we do not hear from students, we will reach out to their academic advisor and/or coaches to glean additional information” does not weigh too heavy on your mind. Like they said, this condition is simply “to ensure that [donor relations] has the correct contact information.” I also hope you do not take much insult at full-paying students who must be incentivized with purple cups and plastic straws to write these letters. Unlike students on financial aid who write to you out of gracious obligation, full-paying students should be reimbursed for such undue thankfulness.
‘Without your contributions, I would not be able to’ gauge my worth to my fellow classmates. I am glad that the controversy surrounding my presence at this school prompts a rigorous theoretical exercise concerning whether students on financial aid are here at Amherst to teach those whose parents are paying full tuition. Every time someone proclaims the “I guess I’m privileged” revelation, I realize how my existence has assisted someone in recognizing their positionality. During these moments when it becomes clear I am not simply a student who wants to learn but a resource for learning, I feel imbued with such a sense of instrumental importance. Thanks to my outside-of-the-classroom conversations, I have learned how to both recite my narrative in a predictable and patient manner and how to demonstrate to others the value of diversity.
‘I am grateful for your support because’ here I have found administrators, who — in response to the proclamations of violently insecure boys — put me on a pedestal. It is nice to have people who believe so single-mindedly in my ability to persevere that they shift the burden of success onto me and render institutional intervention irrelevant.
Here, I recognize that feelings of non-belonging on this campus do not begin and end with the individuals who voice hateful opinions. I recognize how students are martyred, how their circumstances are marginalized and how administrative duties are minimized.
Here, I recognize how an ideology of indebtedness pervades the question — why are you here? Students who welcome us see our value after we are consumed like readings on a syllabus. Students who look the other way see us for how much we cost.
Here, I am told to not apologize for my presence. I am told not to be sorry. I am also told to be grateful.
Jenna Peng ’18
Single quotations indicate sections drawn directly from postcard writing instructions provided at I Love My Alumni Week tabling.