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The Office of Student Housing has a two day oppression reduction training program that is part of Resident Advisor training each year. Just a few of the program's learning outcomes include: understanding power and privilege in the US, understanding how 'I' am privileged and not privileged in US society, understanding how I can personally impact oppression in my sphere of influence, etc. The students who participate are taught about oppression using the Umbrella Model of Oppression and a series of workshops which tackle different areas of oppression in the US such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and classism. The program seems to have a great deal of impact on students who participate. Not only are learning outcomes reached, students often remark that the experience is so transformative that it changes the way that they consider information both in and outside of the classroom. One student remarked, "I was totally blown away to know how much privilege I have and that the world is not at all as I believed. This makes me much more critical, in a good way, about information that I'm receiving from the media, my professors, the internet, and friends and family."
Megan Kirchert, first year Resident Advisor has this to say about the training some portions of the training:
Oppression reduction training was an amazing experience! At first it felt a little bit awkward and thoughts of, 'oh, this is going to be lame', and 'there's no way I'm telling anybody anything', were running through my head. The activity that had the greatest impact on me was 'Closing the Circle.' Everyone stood in a circle; all 50 RA's and all of our professional staff. One of the members of the professional staff was the speaker leading the event. She would say, 'Step inside the circle if you...' and then finish the sentence with some sort of adjective, such as '...identify yourself as a woman,' '...identify yourself as black,' '...have ever been emotionally, physically, or mentally abused,' '...do not think that you are attractive.' Whoever identified with the sentence would step inside the circle and create a smaller circle, look at each other, maybe give each other a hug, and return to their spot in the larger circle. All of this was done in complete silence. As the activity progressed, the questions became deeper and more personal. I watched as others hesitated before going into the circle but then allowed themselves to become vulnerable. They were revealing things about themselves that were personal. A sense of trust and support could be felt throughout the room. It was comforting to see how many people were being affected by the topics they chose to step in on. Seeing how others were opening up and crying gave me the feeling that no matter what I revealed, it would be okay. Hearing a personal topic that I identified with sparked an instant feeling of butterflies in my stomach. Lifting up my foot to take that first step in was so difficult that I almost didn't go in, but I looked up and saw others stepping in and thought to myself, 'Just go, this is me.' I 'closed the circle' for topics that had hurt me for years. When I looked at the faces of others who had experienced the same topics, I began to cry, and they hugged and supported me. Upon returning to the larger circle I received more hugs, love, and support. It felt incredible to know that I had just revealed a piece of myself and now everyone knew a little bit about where I was coming from, without me having to speak a word about it. Being in a room full of people that were feeling as exposed and vulnerable as I, was one of the most real experiences I'd ever had. Everyone was real; no forced smiles, no pathetic hugs, no empty words, and no protective walls. I left that day with more courage than I could have ever hoped for, and a new-found confidence to be honest with myself by acknowledging my own experiences.
Another activity that had an affect on me was an activity wherein all of the women left the room and were asked to silently think of a sentence that represented a negative experience they'd had with a man. Then the women lined up and returned to the room where the men were now sitting in a circle, blindfolded. The women slowly walked around the men's circle, whispered their sentence in to each of their ears, and then sat in a larger circle around them. After all of the women sat down, the men took off their blindfolds and were asked to reflect on what they had just experienced. The women were now to remain silent spectators and just watch the inner conversation unfold. As one of the women, I felt empowered and supported knowing that the men had heard what I'd said, (although they didn't know who said it). They commented on everything and showed emotion and support for all of the women. It was truly an amazing experience.
Phiven Saifu, former Resident Advisor had this to say about the training:
My mind really changed and opened up while with housing, and it was during my position as an RA when I came to the [understanding] that we, as humans, are all "one race." It is not about anything else. Not color, creed, religion, sex, class, etc. We all breathe the same air and have the same bodily functions and while we may be different for many reasons, we are also the SAME.
Some of my personal lessons were accepting and being patient with people with disabilities, such as the other hard-of-hearing RAs with [whom I worked]. Sometimes, on duty, I wanted to step in and help, when they were interacting with students. I would also find my patience fighting me when an interpreter had to step in and translate through sign language between the RA who was hard-of-hearing and the other students. I learned patience over time though, and I learned to respect my colleagues as normal human beings. I learned that these particular RAs just wanted to do their job on their own as much as possible, like everyone else.
Another thing I battled with for a long time, especially after I started college was my issues with the "white" race and what has been done to people of color throughout the history of the world. I realized that there are nice, decent, and empathetic white people who do understand the atrocities of the world and not all white people walk around oblivious to their "white privilege" and the way capitalism works, and do deserve to be given a "chance" in my world. This was very difficult for me for a long time, however I learned through the different experiences and interactive situations/scenarios/games that I was exposed to as an RA.