Support, Educate, and Embrace Diversity and Students Against Social Injustice began the first dialogue on privilege at their first “CommUnity Build” on Tuesday March 31 in response to popular demand for the event. The conversation arose due in part to students’ concerns with addressing privilege on the Geneseo campus after reactions to the Police Brutality March and Vigil in early December. Secretary of S.E.E. Diversity sophomore Laura Brown explained that, “from the post on the Social Justice Groups page on addressing privilege, we knew that we needed to have a more concentrated talk on the building up of these issues.”
Modeled after a Real World Geneseo activity that took place during the board’s participation in the program, the event was part of a simulated social experiment where students were randomly divided into different communities.
Brown added, “We are going to have four to six people per group in four communities that are all bordering each other in set boxes disproportionately. The participants are not allowed to pass the borders and each group will be told to build a community with supplies such as cardboard and duct-tape, distributed unequally.” Communities were divided in four—ranking from the one with the most resources to one with the least.
During the simulation, students appeared frustrated with the lack of materials and constant paroling of the “policemen.” “Part of our role as police officers is to really show that difference in treatment,” S.E.E. Diversity president senior Mia Ferraina said. “Even if you grew up in Community Four but you’re placed in Community One, you’ll recognize that you’re being treated much better even if you grew up in Community Four in actuality.”
Toward the end of the activity, students discussed how differently each community developed and underdeveloped despite the challenges and obstacles given to them. “In real life, you look around and go, ‘Oh, that high school isn’t as good as mine, oh, that hospital wasn’t as good as mine,’” Ferraina said. “In this activity, you’re physically building these communities and it helps you reflect more on these conversations.”
Students finished the activity with a dialogue about privilege and about belonging to separate communities as it relates to their personal lives. “The first thing we need to do is to be more open,” sophomore Aminah Dantzler said. “It all starts with the idea of backfiring against seclusion. It starts with taking the opportunity to meet other people.”
The activity’s objective was to place students in communities that differ from their real ones and get them to start thinking about the views of those around them. “The goal was to lure people who don’t talk about privilege to come and get a third eye on something and engage in a worthwhile conversation,” Ferraina said. “My hope is that students realize something they may have not thought of before, regardless of what group they grew up in.”
“I think that this activity examines the way that the input comes about,” vice president senior Eric West said. “If you don’t look at the world you live in with a critical eye, you won’t get the full story.”