Resources for Students

Realize What You Have

  1. Defining Wealth

    1. Wealth at Wesleyan is everywhere, and it is so normalized that it is invisible for many. We hope that this section will help you better understand how money shows up in your life.

  2. Wesleyan Wealth Statistics

    1. Infographics and data on the radical wealth at Wesleyan

Redistribute What You Can

  1. Middletown Mutual Aid Collective

    1. What is MMAC, and why should you support it? This section provides an overview of fantastic mutual aid work in Wesleyan’s surrounding community.

  2. Solidarity vs. Charity

    1. In this section, we look at the ways in which mutual aid differs from charity in intent, organization, impact. Our community needs solidarity through sustained redistribution, not charity.

  3. Dialogue Guide for Parents and Students

    1. So you’ve read through the guide and started redistributing your own money. Now comes the hard part: getting your parents to do the same. This guide has parent FAQs and step by step conversation outlines, all tested out on our own parents!

  4. Reading list

    1. Resources on Wesleyan-Middletown relations, Mutual Aid history, and useful articles for convincing parents

Defining Wealth

Wealth has very different definitions for people in different class positions. More than anything else, though, wealth operates a safety net. For, this reason, our definition of “wealthy” is based on notions of security, not excess. Being wealthy means that if your parent or provider could no longer work, they could use savings/assets/networks to ensure that your family’s basic needs are met. We use an intentionally broad definition of wealth to denormalize the financial security that so many students at Wesleyan have grown up with. Relative to the rest of the world, and to many in our surrounding community, financial security is not a normal experience.

 

Wealth at Wesleyan can look like:

  • Paying full tuition to attend Wesleyan (59% of the student body)

  • Having family members with advanced degrees

  • Receiving ongoing financial support from parents and/or not needing to work a campus job

  • Working a campus job for experience or disposable income rather than out of necessity 

  • Being on a parent’s health insurance and/or having a family that can afford medical treatment without financial strain

  • Working unpaid internships without support from the university

  • Attending private schools prior to Wesleyan

  • Coming from a family with long-term savings, investments, and retirement accounts

  • Having a safety net if you are unable to find employment after Wesleyan

Wesleyan Wealth Statistics

70% of Wesleyan students are in the top 20% while just 17% are in the bottom 20%.

Wesleyan is the most expensive four-year college in Connecticut and the 30th most expensive college in the US.

 

The average student's family income falls in the top 18th percentile in the US, while Middletown's average household income falls in the bottom 82nd percentile in Connecticut.

Solidarity vs. Charity

Charity is…

  • Hierarchical

  • Bureaucratic

  • Surface level

  • Self-serving

Mutual aid is…

  • Non-hierarchical

  • Empowering and direct

  • Inclusive and reciprocal

  • Community building

  • Systemic change and resistance

MMAC horizontal graphic.png

Dialogue Guide for Parents and Students

Have class privilege?                                                                          Want to talk to your parents about

                                                                                                         donating to Middletown Mutual Aid?

 

 

                                                               See if we can help! 

 

Step 1: Prepare for the Conversation

DO… Understand why you want to have this conversation! It’s helpful to figure out your own motivation for giving first before making the case to your parents. You don’t need to be an expert, but having a good understanding of mutual aid and the work that the Middletown Mutual Aid Collective does is important. If you aren't sure where to begin, use the dialogue prompts throughout this guide to start brainstorming.

 

DON’T… Get accusatory. A conversation includes back and forth, so remember to listen. Ask questions and try to learn more about your parent’s current giving and their understanding of mutual aid. Meet them where they’re at.

 

DO… Establish goals for the conversation. You might have a tangible goal, like asking for an immediate donation to the Middletown Mutual Aid Collective. Another goal could be getting a better understanding of how and why your parents currently give money, which could lead to further discussion about making recurring commitments to donate.

 

DON’T… Set unrealistic expectations. If your parents don’t currently donate to any organization, it might not be realistic to ask for a large donation. Smaller donations to start, a commitment to small regular donations, or a commitment to learn more and engage with redistribution resources might be more realistic.

 

Step 2: Start Talking

Once you’ve established your goals and set realistic expectations, it’s time to start talking. It’s important to not spring the conversation on your parents at a bad time. If you’re unsure, ask to have the conversation in advance and set a time to talk.

 

Start by briefly explaining why you want to have this conversation. Basically, make sure your parents understand why this conversation is meaningful to you. Then, explain what mutual aid is and what Middletown Mutual Aid Collective does specifically. Check out the glossary on page 15 for an in-depth definition of mutual aid and page 7 for more information about MMAC.

 

If you know your parents already donate money, you can also start by asking a few questions:

  1. What organizations have we given to in the past? Why these organizations? Do you know how much of your donations actually end up in the hands of people in need?

  2. What has been the process for deciding where to give? What about how much to give? Is giving planned and budgeted for or an afterthought?

Understanding the motivation behind your parent’s giving can be helpful. If their answer for giving is to “help people” you can explain why mutual aid is the most effective way of doing that. Check out our section on solidarity vs. charity for more information on why to redistribute.

 

If your parents don’t already donate money, share the reasons why you care about mutual aid. The resources in this guide are a great starting point to better understand the importance of redistributing to mutual aid. You can also connect giving to other values that you’ve learned from your parents like generosity, inclusivity, and a focus on community. 

 

Showing your parents that you’ve already made a financial commitment to MMAC is another good way to get them to understand how serious you are about redistribution. If you plan to regularly contribute, you can also ask them to match your contributions!

 

Step 3: Dig Deeper

Before your parents are ready to redistribute, they might have more questions or even arguments. Giving directly to people often makes wealthy people feel uncomfortable because it highlights their privilege and power imbalance. They also might feel more comfortable with organizations that appear more professional or established.

 

 

Step 4: Keep the Conversation Going

Starting the conversation is the most important step, but it’s also important to make it more than one conversation. It might be a good idea to give your parents time to reflect on the information you’ve told them. Even if they are excited to donate immediately, making redistribution an ongoing conversation can make their donations more sustainable.

Middletown Government Participation Guide

Are you a Wesleyan student who wants to get involved in local government or organizing? Here are some things to consider before diving in...

Listen and learn.

  • There’s a lot going on in Middletown. Attend political forums, talk to elders in the community, and even read Facebook chats about these issues. It’s super important to understand what residents are feeling when you formulate your own opinions.

  • What initiatives have been tried before? What initiatives are already in the works? What is needed or desired as expressed by the community?

Reflect on your own positionality.

  • Be aware of your distinct position as a Wesleyan student living temporarily on a campus that is isolated from and has historically harmed the Middletown community. These issues do not affect you in the same way they affect long-term residents of Middletown.

  • Does it help or hurt to have Wesleyan students be an active voice in this cause? Why is or isn’t our support visible in an outward facing manner? Am I doing this more for the middletown community than I am for myself or my own sense of involvement?

Use Wesleyan's resources for good.

  • Wesleyan has a vast amount of educational capital and student labor power to be shared. Some of these are from existing groups, like the Office of Community Service or the Office of Sustainability, which you can collaborate with if you have an idea relevant to their work. Sometimes it’s as easy as asking your friend for a ride to a meeting or to do a delivery to a local resident. 

  • What Wesleyan resources can be leveraged and given to Middletown (funding, awareness, transportation, professor support, student support, time and energy… the list goes on)?

Commit! Don't be flakey.

  • It’s okay to “shop around” at different meetings to learn about a variety of topics, but if you want to make change on an issue in town, stay in consistent communication with the local residents you are working with: even (and especially) during school breaks! If you need to take a step back, communicate that and ask how you can be of help from afar.

  • Am I committed to this issue in the long term (over a semester/year/multiple years)? Am I able to commit the time and energy that this issue deserves?

Make it last.

  • Some Wesleyan students choose to leave Middletown after graduation, and even if they don’t they sometimes transition away from the work they do as undergraduates. Making sure that  the work we as students do isn’t sporadic and that the relationships and organizing we build doesn’t disappear is essential to engaging responsibly with our Middletown community.

  • How am I going to ensure that this project lasts beyond my time as a Wesleyan Student? Is the aim to support residents, to make it self sustaining by residents, or actively pass on the work to younger students?

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