Breaking the boundaries

University Housing will host event focusing on privilege

USI Housing

Sarah Adams, Area Coordinator for O’Daniel South, said the Diversity Committee of Housing and Residence Life Committee noticed the unaddressed issue of privilege.

The group is ready to take the next step in diversity education for students, and they held a panel discussion Wednesday in Forum 1 from 8-9 p.m.  

The panel is titled “Check Your Privilege” and discusses the ways people interact with the diversity of those around them and becoming aware of privileges they may not be aware of.

“We’re going to be talking about privilege and how it works at USI and in the real world and how to respond to it,” Adams said.    

“A lot of people now know about racism and sexism and things like that.  But they don’t often know about how being born into a certain family versus another can influence your whole life,” Adams said.  “So, it’s focusing on how privilege affects everyone even if you have it or don’t have it, and how you shouldn’t feel guilty about having privilege because it’s not something you chose, but you do need to respond to it.”   

Adams said the campus is becoming more diverse every year and while there are many groups addressing the minority, the education of the majority is not common.

“We’ve noticed there’s a lot of programs on campus through the multicultural center and international studies that are being directed at underrepresented groups of students, but not a lot of programs directed to teaching diversity to groups of students from majority groups.”

Taylor Burcham said she never used to think about privilege.

“I kind of took that stuff for granted,” the junior nursing major said. “And now I’m very aware of that stuff, and it’s nice to be aware of that stuff because then you can respect people more when they don’t have those kinds of privileges.”

Burcham said she learned a lot about addressing privileges and diversity during her RA training.

“That’s the goal of an RA, to make sure everyone feels included,” Burcham said. “I think housing has really turned its focus on that inclusivity and just making sure everyone knows their purpose on this campus.”

Burcham said discussions on privileges are important, but often untaught.

Students don’t talk about things like this enough. I think it just flies under the radar and in our daily lives. We kind of take stuff for granted,” Burcham said. “I think that acknowledging it makes you more aware of it.”

The event will be set up as a panel discussion about the topic of privilege. The panel is made up of resident assistants and other students with a variety of groups being represented.  

Burcham will be sitting on the panel and said the differences in the student panel will make it easier for students to ask difficult questions and also allow a broader set of answers.

“It’s coming in from so many different perspectives that they can see the hidden diversities we have on campus and also some of the more prominent ones,” Burcham said.

The committee has selected various questions that moderator Hannah Melton will ask the assigned panel.  After the panel responses, the audience will be able to comment and ask further questions themselves to generate more conversation.  

The group has also set up a hashtag for Twitter if a student has a question they do not wish to ask out loud (#diversifyUSI).

Burcham said students will be given the chance to learn more about their individual privileges and how to respect other’s privileges or privileges they don’t have.

“Breaking that boundary is really important for students to get connected on campus,” Burcham said.  “I hope (students) feel like they are more included on campus and they feel like they belong here.They are valued not just by our teachers and faculty, but are valued by their own peers.”