Would you like a violin with that privilege?

Sophie in Santa Cruz

03-10-2016

I have a violin! After regretting not bringing my violin from Maastricht I enquired in the music department about renting one. Rent? They were having none of that. After my audition on a friend’s violin I was whisked into a locked room full of instruments on hold for just such an occasion and presented with my (temporarily) very own violin free of charge.

Bursting with my exciting news I waltzed into my apartment. My face fell at the sight of one of my roommates: just to be able to afford tuition she receives financial aid and she had asked for help acquiring some of her textbooks. She was told that to be eligible for financial support to acquire study materials she would have to take out a loan of $55,000. A loan which would further indebt her to the school, and one she wouldn’t be able to pay back because she has saved just enough money to be able to be here in the first place. The very reason she is trying to save money on textbooks and has asked for support.

The good fortune of having received a free violin is turning to a bitter taste in my mouth. I looked it up, my violin has an estimated cost of €1,000. Not an unreasonable amount in the world of violins but an amount corresponding roughly to ten average-priced psychology textbooks. And this is just one instrument: I was told if someone else needs my violin, they will find another one for me.

I feel like I’ve seen behind the school’s Janus face: to me, the middle-class, white European with the good fortune to have had family able to pay for violin lessons since age seven the school is supportive and encouraging. To my friend who is the first in her family to go to college and has worked for years to finance her education the school presents further obstacles and won’t even provide basic academic necessities. University is supposed to prepare you for the real world, they say. If the real world is one where those with privilege get handed more privilege and those struggling in life have more curveballs thrown their way then I have no interest in preparing to be a complicit member of this society.

Sophie Silverstein

Would you like a violin with that privilege?
Sophie Silverstein