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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Workshop challenges students’ notions

    In a cramped room on the fourth floor of the Student Union Memorial Center, a woman excitedly gestures with her hands toward a small group of about 30 students.

    She is challenging them – to acknowledge privilege, to admit the world’s faults and to take the right steps to fixing such problems.

    “”We need to see the way privilege impacts our lives,”” says Jennifer Hoefle, coordinator for the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. “”How do you identify with yourself, and how does that relate to how you view yourself in a social group?””

    The question was posed by the coordinator of the UA Social Justice Program Tuesday night at the program’s workshop titled, “”Social Identity Development.”” The program is meant to raise awareness among UA students on such issues as privilege, race, class and sexual orientation, Hoefle said.

    The workshop’s goal was to spark a conversation among members of the student body about how self-identification, concerning such factors as race, class and gender, shapes what social groups individuals choose to join.

    The most heated topic of the night was one posed by a female student in the third row who felt her status as a Caucasian does not yield her as much privilege as most might think.

    “”In college, I’ve had to rely more on my academics rather than my race (or) my ethnicity to get scholarships and financial aid . . . so in a sense, I feel disadvantaged because of that,”” she said. “”I have friends of minority backgrounds who are almost just handed scholarships.””

    Hoefle wrinkled her face before interjecting a comment of her own.

    “”Well, it’s not really that simple,”” she said. “”The way a particular group of people is privileged may not all be the same.””

    Such was the theme of the night – things are not always what they seem, and they are never simple.

    Splitting up into groups of two, Hoefle asked students to fill out sheets of paper outlining each individual’s privileges based on factors of race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexual orientation. Hoefle then asked participants to think about how often they are aware of the factors throughout their everyday lives.

    Forming groups of four, students shared their childhood upbringings, noting experiences that shaped the way they looked at race, gender and class in the world. As the experiences were then shared with the entire room, participants noticed that ethnic and racial notions were as diverse as the multi-cultural audience, with students’ backgrounds reaching from the Pacific Northwest to the United Kingdom.

    “”Some of the issues are really taboo,”” said Nick Carlstrom, an agricultural resource economics sophomore. “”There’s no other place to have such conversation.””

    Rather than looking at the world’s problems on an impossibly large macrocosmic level, students can change their own scope by simply listening, he added.

    “”If you don’t ever listen, you’ll never know,”” Carlstrom said.

    While the workshop was meant to open the eyes of participants, there is still much work to be done by the Social Justice Program to ensure students are properly informed, said Devon Jernigan, a Social Justice mentor.

    “”We make the leaders of tomorrow’s society,”” she said. “”In order to shape the world into a better place, we need to shape ourselves.””

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