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The Middlebury Campus

Class-Conscious Organizing at Midd

By EDWARD O’BRIEN

There has been a lot of talk since Trump was elected about leveraging one’s privilege to do good. That is exactly what the Moving Money Campaign is about. It’s all too common to hear liberal college students complain about how powerless they feel; but the truth is that we are not powerless. The median family income of students who attend Middlebury is $245,000 per year and almost one out of four students come from families that earn over $650,000, according to the recent New York Times article on colleges with many students from the top one percent. In order to engage in effective class-conscious activism, we must be self-conscious of where we fall along world wealth and income distributions. The median income at Middlebury puts these families in the top 3 or 4 percent of American earners.Globally, these incomes are even rarer. Those who make the median income at Middlebury are in the top 0.04 percent of earners in the world, and are among the top 3 million wealthiest households in the world by income. Even those who are not considered wealthy at Middlebury are usually wealthy in a global context — any family that makes over $33,000 per year after taxes is in the top 1 percent of the world.

Middlebury Moving Money is a project that challenges people to be class-conscious in their organizing. We are committed to wealth redistribution and combatting inequality and poverty. Protests and marches express solidarity and can often pressure institutions to change, but too often protests do not translate into tangible action. The Moving Money campaign is one way students — and their families! — can  reallocate resources and redistribute wealth. Even a small amount of money can go a long way. For the price of an Even Steven at the Grille, you could pay to feed two children for a week. For the price of a movie at the Marquis, you could save an acre of the rainforest. For the price of Snow Bowl tickets, you could send a girl to school for a year, and for a concert, you could pay for the emergency medical need of someone without healthcare. Students may not have access to much wealth now, but giving a small amount can be a symbolic gesture in committing to wealth redistribution when and if we have access to more wealth. In the interest of being self-aware and class-consciousness, now is also a great opportunity to talk to parents about wealth redistribution.

This is power. This is opportunity. This is opportunity cost. The Moving Money Campaign challenges Middkids to be self-conscious and intentional about how they spend their money and about the money they have to spend. Think about how much money you spend in a weekend or how much money you spent on spring break. Now think of the potential of that money. We are not powerless.

Philanthropy is not a substitute for, and should not distract from, structural change. We must fight for universal healthcare and for the rights of women to be educated and for the global distribution of food. But those are not things any individual can do in one day. While we are fighting for these things, we can make marginal change and do marginal good. We can’t do everything, but we need to do something.

To donate or learn more about class-conscious organizing, especially at elite institutions, go to go/movemoney. We are trying to raise $2,000 to fight poverty by the end of exam week. This money symbolizes our commitment to combatting inequality, and it will make $2,000 of difference in the world. We recommend donating to Hope VT, a poverty relief organization in Addison County, so that we can redistribute money in the community in which we live. Many protests and activist activities do not translate into tangible action; moving money is a way to make a difference here and now. Two thousand can do a lot on the world stage, and will symbolize our commitment as a community to intentionally recognizing our privilege and committing to the redistribution of wealth.

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