Anthony Jack. “I, too, Am Hungry”: Structural Exclusion at an Elite University

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“I, too, Am Hungry”: Structural Exclusion at an Elite University

Through major financial aid initiatives, colleges have increased access for undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds. While previous investigations of undergraduate life emphasize how differences in cultural capital shape students’ integration into college, I examine structural exclusion—how specific operational features of the college marginalize lower-income undergraduates—to highlight the university’s direct role in shaping social interactions and undergraduates’ sense of belonging. I draw on interviews with 103 undergraduates, two years of ethnographic observations, and data from administrative and online sources to show how lower-income undergraduates identify these policies as intentional and abrupt tears in the fabric of campus life that mark them as different for being poor. I interrogate the social and personal costs of exclusion and discuss implications for undergraduates’ opportunities and social well-being. 

Anthony (Tony) Jack (PhD Harvard 2016) is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. His research documents the overlooked diversity among lower-income undergraduates: the Doubly Disadvantaged­—those who enter college from local, typically distressed public high schools—and Privileged Poor­—those who do so from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools. Tony has held fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation and is a 2015 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellow. His research has been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Huffington Post, National Review, Washington Post, American RadioWorks, and MPR, and has earned awards from the American Sociological Association, Eastern Sociological Society, and the Society for the Study of Social Problems.