Class(ist) Rings?

By, Penny Mack

I have had a tumultuous relationship with my Winsor class ring. That being said, I’ve worn it every day since I received it, only taking it off to shower. I love what it represents—pride in my school, my place in a community of amazing people. But it’s hard for me to put aside the problems I have with the ring system.

I have been on financial aid since I started at Winsor. My family has had good years and bad years. Some years paying a couple hundred dollars for a class ring would be alarming, but manageable. Some years it would be unthinkable.

There are eight different types of metals from which a class ring can be made. These vary in price, with a $500 or so difference between the most expensive and the least.

When the time came to pick out which ring I wanted, I felt truly conflicted. My parents encouraged me to get whatever ring I wanted, but I could tell it was a burden on them. I knew they didn’t want me to feel ashamed of not being able to afford the more expensive rings. I also knew that it was a lot to ask for even the lowest-priced ring. I spent a lot of time agonizing over the decision and feeling guilty about what I was asking of my parents. I ended up ordering the least expensive, only to have my ring not delivered on ring day. In a strange cosmic joke, the ring company upgraded me to the most expensive ring for free as an apology.

I don’t think the tradition of class rings at Winsor is innately classist. I never once felt judged by anyone at Winsor about my ring choice. But to ask families to choose from among a vast difference of prices draws class lines. It asks some families to wrestle with the shame, confusion and pain of not being able to afford the more expensive rings. Although class rings have never been, in my experience, purposefully used as displays of privilege, they often end up becoming so. The whole senior class knows the price of each ring, and, as we all wear our rings daily, they become signifiers of how much each person was able to spend.

Winsor does offer financial aid students half off of the least expensive ring– but this is not enough. While it may allow some students to buy a ring that could not otherwise, only covering the cheapest ring could leave students for whom this is the only choice feeling limited in a way their peers are not.

In my opinion, the class ring should be the same for all students. The class as a whole should decide what kind of metal they would like, and Winsor should cover whatever cost is necessary for financial aid students. Perhaps asking the class to choose a single ring will disappoint those whose first choice for metal is not met, but it would successfully alleviate the burden and the inner struggle of students like myself for whom the decision among rings feels like a kick in the gut. Winsor has made great progress in conversations about race, gender and sexuality. Yet we are still afraid to broach the topic of class. Talking about class and privilege does not have to be an awkward or embarrassing conversation because, as Selina L. ’18 states, “This one [ring] situation represents a lot of scenarios at Winsor [regarding] the culture of class and wealth.” We must come to terms with the fact that we go to a school with an extremely high tuition, and that excludes some groups of people while welcoming others. We are so privileged and so lucky to be here, no matter what our family’s economic background is. That being said, there is not a space for lower-income students to share their experiences within the Winsor environment of wealth and privilege. All Winsor students should become more aware that what one may take for granted is not guaranteed in the lives of one’s peers. Let’s be more mindful of the conversations we have about class and money, and become more aware of the diversity of experiences among our student body.