Privilege and Oppression

ACT for Social Justice Facilitators, Angela Berkfield and Mel Motel, worked with the Diversity Commission at Keene State College (KSC) over a 4 month period in 2015. The Diversity Commission approached us asking for support in building a conversation about the way that oppression works, how it impacts people differently based on multiple identities, how it shows up at KSC, and to support creative and productive thinking about what we can do about it. The 6 session conversation was openly advertised to the whole campus, and around 60 different people attended at least 2 sessions, with a total attendance of around 150.

We used the 5 Faces of Oppression activity – based on the work of Iris Marion Young, and adapted for training by Davey Shlasko of Think Again Training – as the foundation for understanding how oppression and privilege function. We then took a deeper dive to understand oppression because of race, class, gender and ability. Students and Commission members brainstormed a huge list of how oppression and privilege are holding Keene State College back from equity and success for all.

Together we identified actions that the Diversity Commission could take to address harm and foster an environment where all people can thrive. The result of this work was a realization that all students and faculty and administration should receive this crucial training and the group took the initial steps towards setting up a Oppression and Privilege Institute. Other actions that came out of this conversation were:

To address racism –
  • Write articles on racism and white privilege for the campus newspaper
  • Require training on racism for all staff and faculty
To address ableism –
  • Only contract with builders who use universal design and design with accessibility in mind
  • Caption all KSC’s website videos
To address classism –
  • Spread awareness about class bias by having special events and workshops
  • Educating & resisting predatory loans and unfair loan policies for student loans
  • Debt resistance movement
To address sexism & gender oppression –
  • Discussions about hypermasculinity relating to particular situations like Pumpkinfest ’14
  • Name change policy & gender neutral bathrooms
  • Develop an actionable sexual harassment policy

Keene State College Diversity Commission