Columbia event discusses 'obligation' to 'redistribute' wealth

Two students at Columbia University are hosting a workshop later this month to encourage their peers to “redistribute our own wealth” to “marginalized people.”

Class Privilege and Radical Redistribution” is organized by Columbia University students Amy Wang and Claire Klinger, and will feature a roundtable discussion on “learning about our obligation to redistribute our own wealth.”

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“Do you pay full tuition? Are you graduating debt-free?” the event description asks. “Do you feel uncomfortable about how much money your family has and avoid the topic as much as possible?”

Students will spend the first half of the February 22 event “mapping out how our families came into money and what communities that money is extracted from,” after which they will “explore how to mobilize our financial privilege to support marginalized people.”

Wang and Klinger note that this workshop may be especially relevant to a majority of students, as nearly “half of all Columbia undergrads pay full tuition, and 60% of students come from the top 20%.”

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“This starts with recognizing that our wealth comes from a fundamentally unequal and exploitative economy,” Wang and Klinger say, claiming that “people are denied basic needs like housing, food, and healthcare so that a small percent can hoard millions and billions of dollars.”

Liza Roy, the organizer of the Columbia Marxists, chimed in to suggest that “perhaps a better solution” to dealing with “class guilt” would be to fight for a society that allows students to graduate from college debt-free.

Roy then commented encouraging students to attend the “Frequently Asked Questions About Marxism” event Monday night.

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Wang and Klinger both responded positively to Roy’s suggestion, but clarified that their primary purpose is not to create a sense of guilt on the part of wealthy students.

“This workshop is in no way interested in creating more guilt, but creating an awareness and a sense of responsibility,” Klinger said in reply to Roy’s comment.

Students should “acknowledge our class and wealth access in the white-supremacist, settler-colonialist, capitalist context in which it exists, and rather than hiding from it and feeling guilty, take steps towards redistributing that wealth and funding the movements led by POC, poor + working class people which are we see creating a world we want to live in,” Klinger added.

While the workshop is targeted at upper-middle and upper-class students, attendance is open to students of all income levels. In preparation, students are encouraged to read articles such as “The Case for Interpersonal Reparations” by Aaron Goggans, and “It’s So Queer to Give Away Money” by Dean Spade, a law professor at Seattle University.

Campus Reform reached out Klinger and Wang for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen