Power, Privilege, and Difficult Dialogues


As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…..whatever affects one of us directly affects all of us indirectly.”  We need to stand united to combat injustice for the sake of our entire community.

This teach-in was motivated by recent bias incidents at Grand Valley in addition to a number of campus indicators that continue to motivate our inclusion and equity work that include the 2011 Campus Climate Study and ongoing reports of bias incidents on campus. These incidents include hostile acts based on race, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, and class.  Students reported that such incidents also occur in the classroom, and they have emphasized the importance of faculty response to intentional or unintentional bias comments and actions. These reports underscore the urgent need for the faculty to take a strong stand to oppose discrimination, intimidation, and oppression in all its forms.

This teach-in, entitled Power, Privilege and Difficult Dialogues, is being planned for the purpose of mutual education among students, faculty and staff of the GVSU community and intended to address topics related to inequality and systems of oppression, as well as social justice and liberation.  Recognizing the multi-faceted dimensions of these topics, we are planning this teach-in as a daylong event. The learning objectives of Power, Privilege, and Difficult Dialogues are to raise awareness, inform, create dialogue, and document suggestions for action.  

In an effort to involve as many students, faculty and staff as possible, we will be adhering to the MWF class schedule, with 50-minute sessions, each starting on the hour.  Please keep in mind that a teach-in is practical, participatory and action oriented. We especially encourage contributions with an intersectional framework (race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ability). Sessions should include student leaders as co-presenters or panelists. We welcome collaborative faculty/student/staff sessions that involve educational frameworks for opening dialogues, workshops, and engaged pedagogies.

A complete schedule of the teach-in schedule and related materials will be available after March 17.

On behalf of ECS (Executive Committee of the University Academic Senate), 
Karen Gipson (PHY), Chair of ECS/ University Academic Senate 
Wendy Burns-Ardolino (LIB), ECS/ University Academic Senate member

Collaborative partners include the following:
Dean of Students Office
Division of Inclusion and Equity
LGBT Resource Center
Office of Multicultural Affairs
Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center
Women’s Center

Teach-In Schedule

All events listed below will be held in the Mary Idema Pew Library Atrium.
Sessions from 10am – 2pm will be simulcast downtown in the Seidman College of Businnes, Room 1008/Multipurpose Room.

CLICK HERE to view a live-stream. 


8:00 - 8:50am
  • Opening Reception
    Exhibition Space

  • 9:00 - 9:50am
    • Buying in and selling out: How internalized oppression protects unjust systems of power and privilege
      Learning Lab; Workshop
      Emily West (LGBT Resource Center Program Coordinator) and Tyler Stringer (LGBT Resource Center student worker and Co-facilitator of First-Year Queer Alliance).
            In this session, we will provide GVSU faculty, staff and students the opportunity to examine their own internalized oppression utilizing an intersectional framework. Most of us have internalized dominance and internalized subordination relative to our socio-political location. This location is primarily based on the ways we have been systematically categorized by race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. These categories are most commonly understood in terms of identity but are not as simple as self-identification because of our current legal, social, cultural and political realities.
            In a capitalist economy we have to worry about our basic needs such as food, water, shelter and safety, and we are encouraged to compete with one another for resources controlled by a small number of elite capitalist interests. One manifestation of internalized oppression is horizontal hostility within marginalized communities, meaning the policing of one anothers behaviors, attitudes, and appearances in order to conform more closely to dominant preferences. In this profits over people model of economics, we may conform to the dominant culture and begin to believe what it says about us (internalized oppression) in order to survive.  We may also take advantage of the unearned privileges we have due to our dominant identities and believe we are entitled to these benefits (internalized dominance).

    • Framework for Identifying Barriers to Meaningful Discussions about Race
      Multipurpose Room; Lecture and Discussion
      Dr. Patty Stow Bolea (School of Social Work and FTLC Faculty Fellow).
            This session will explore common barriers for both faculty and students in classroom discussions regarding race. Despite the best preparations, intentions, and group discussion skills, it is common for discussions to be superficial in nature, involve few rather than all students, end with a demonstration of the inherent difficulties rather than a meaningful shared understanding.
            Participants in this session will explore underlying barriers that prevent deeper learning. Additionally workshop participants will explore strategies that can be useful to both students and faculty in their own personal and professional growth, as it relates to diversity and cultural competence.

    • 10:00 - 10:50am
    • Racial Segregation and Racial Attitudes: Reflecting on their Connections
      Learning Lab; Workshop
      Dr. Joel Stillerman (Sociology Department).
           The purpose of this session is twofold. First, participants will have an opportunity to consider how their childhood experiences have affected their attitudes regarding race relations. Second, participants will learn how these childhood experiences were structured by broader institutional arrangements promoting racial segregation.
            During the first 20 minutes, participants will be divided into small groups and asked to discuss how much contact they had with persons of a different racial or ethnic background in key everyday settings growing up, the messages they heard about people of different races, and the kinds of interactions they had with people from other racial and ethnic groups. During the next 20 minutes, the instructor will briefly sketch the main society-wide processes that have promoted racial segregation (federal policy, banking and real estate discrimination, zoning laws, homeowners' practices, and neighborhood preferences) and how these processes have led to the persistence of segregation today. In the last 10 minutes, participants will be prompted to consider how segregation may affect racial attitudes and the possibilities for mutual understanding across racial and ethnic groups.

  • Thinking about Privilege: Take-aways from the Knapsack Institute
    Multipurpose Room; Interactive Presentation
    Dr. Deepak P. Subramony (College of Education).
          This session introduces students to two valuable intellectual lenses through which to view the inter-related phenomena of privilege and oppression in human society. The first of these is the concept of intersectionality, which helps us understand how each one of us is the result of a unique intersection of multiple variables, each of which either privileges us or disempowers us, depending upon how that particular variable is viewed by the society in which we live. As a result, some of us enjoy multiple layers of privilege, while others endure multiple layers of oppression. Most of us experience a mix of both. The second conceptual tool that this session introduces is that of the invisible 'knapsack' of unearned privilege that many of us carry though life in a mostly oblivious manner, from which we benefit greatly but tend to explain said benefits as resulting from our own competencies/talents/efforts. The insights presented here were obtained via participation in the 2013 Knapsack Institute (an intensive three-day summer program focused on social justice pedagogy at the University of Colorado) as well as from my own experiences teaching educational technology and social/cultural foundations of education for more than a decade.

  • 11:00 - 11:50am
  • Myths and Realities of Affirmative Action
    Learning Lab; Video and Discussion
    Dr. Joel Wendland (Liberal Studies Department).
         This session will open with a discussion of the things participants have "heard" about affirmative action policies and the concept of "reverse discrimination." I will ask them to work in groups to articulate a list for me to share with the larger group. We will then view an 18-minute clip that discusses some of these myths, using news footage, statements by people who think they have been victimized by reverse racism, and other means. The clip is entitled "But What About Us?" and is part of a larger documentary recently released entitled White Like Me produced by anti-racist activist Tim Wise. The video provides important data about the real effects of affirmative action and addresses historical and contemporary reasons for its necessity. The follow-up discussion would ask small groups to discuss critical thought questions about myths and realities, how our words and beliefs are articulations of institutional structures and ideologies, about how participants locate themselves in debates over race, racism, and racial issues, the ways in which our beliefs in myth impact how GVSU students, staff, and faculty interact with another on issues of race, and what steps we take to make positive changes in our behaviors. The goal will be to construct a permanent document or statement on the results.

  • The Power of Words and Images: Student's Creative Responses and the Necessity of Contextualization
    Multipurpose Room; Panel and Discussion
    Kimberly Mileskiwicz, Jazminne Brock, Lauren Morris and Collin Rymarz (students) with Dr. Rachel Peterson (Liberal Studies Department) and Dr. Dwayne Tunstall (Philosophy Department).
          For this panel and discussion, we aim to provide a forum for student participation with faculty support. Four students from LIB 201, Diversity in the United States, will perform rap songs and read poems composed in response to bias incidents on campus. These students will share their own reactions that address themes of intersectional identities under attack; the importance of confronting the pasts reflection in contemporary events, and the central role education plays in increasing social justice. We anticipate that these students willingness to share their responses will generate audience response. This portion of the presentation will take 25 minutes, including the readings and discussion. For the remaining 25 minutes, the faculty facilitators will pick up on themes from the students writings in order to contextualize the messages and images.

  • 12:00 - 12:50pm
  • Free Speech, Money, and Power in Higher Education
    Learning Lab; Roundtable
    Dr. George Lundskow (Sociology Department) and Kassandra Brozowski (student).
          We will posit issues as prompts to generate discussion and serve as moderators to address questions such as: What is free speech? Are there limits? Who decides? Is hate speech a form of free speech? Is there such a thing as a right to be heard? What role should a university play? Should a university devote money and other resources to ensure access to public space and media? To what extent should a university be able to shape its own policy on speech?

  • Archie Bunker's Neighborhood
    Multipurpose Room; Workshop
    Brenda Mitchner (Associate Director of Housing & Residence Life) and Dr. Lois Owens (School of Social Work) with other Housing Staff.
          This activity is designed to give participants exposure to a simulated environment of bias, oppression and prejudice. Participants who have in many cases never been part of any underrepresented group are asked to take on that role. The oppressiveness of the simulated activity soon becomes a very reactive and often emotionally frustrating experience for participants. Participants are asked to perform a number of tasks that are based on the race of the various groups which make up the exercise. Many, because of the level of their assigned race cannot gain access to the necessary services which may allow them to live a quality life as do a number of the surrounding participants who are also assigned groups based upon their varying race status.
          The experience serves as instrumental ground work for examining the intersection of oppression and poverty and allows for intense debriefing and discussion. This exercise educates attendees about the damaging effects of oppression and lack of access for many under-represented groups in the United States. The exercise addresses stereotyping, classism, bias and micro-aggressions as well. The effects can be enlightening and impactful as participants begin to feel the experience.

  • 1:00 - 1:50pm
  • "When and where I enter... the whole Negro race enters with me." -- Anna Julia Cooper, 1892
    Learning Lab; Roundtable
    Dr. Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury and Dr. Olivia A. Williams (College of Education).
         While it may appear to the vast majority in this generation that African American students (and professionals) have always graced the landscape of historically white institutions, this is not the case. In fact the last of the Segregation Academies were closed in just the 1970s (Moye, 2004). African American students who enter historically white institutions engage in social spaces that, while not designed to exclude, were not designed with some of their cultural comforts in mind. Often this leaves students feeling isolated, invisible and silenced (Smith, Hung, & Franklin, 2011; Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000). Many students leave seeking cultural comfort elsewhere. GVSU has a unique opportunity to develop social spaces that embrace, engage and include.
          We begin this session with storytelling, encouraging African American students to share their experiences with having to create space for themselves at GVSU. We will discuss their various experiences in the context of history, or the elders, that will offer models of encouragement and strategiestools we hope will empower African American students and help to relieve some of the burden they carry as they attend a historically white university. This will also be a time to envision how to transform aspects of the university structure so that it is more inviting and accommodating of the needs of African American students. At the conclusion of this roundtable we expect to share with the Dean of Students, Division of Inclusion and Equity and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. We strongly encourage follow-up sessions with faculty and staff who can incorporate strategies that offer a welcoming space to all students.

  • After the Teach-In: What next?
    Multipurpose Room; Workshop
    Dr. Marshall Battani and Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein (Sociology Department) with Zach Trank, Zach Oaster, Kassie Brozowski, and Brianne Sochocki (students).
          This session is designed to help participants consider ways that we can all help cultivate a campus culture that does not tolerate expressions of prejudice. Participants will work in groups to brainstorm ways these occur and to consider what various actors on campus (administration; faculty; students) could be doing differently to promote a more tolerant and inclusive campus culture.

  • 2:00pm
  • Continued Conversations
    Exhibition Space
    Members of GVSU Counseling Center will be available for participants to continue processing any ideas encountered in the earlier sessions.

  • 2:00 - 2:50pm
  • When a Joke Isn't Funny (and Other Awkward Moments)
    Learning Lab; Roundtable
    Dr. Lisa M. Perhamus (College of Education).
          This session will use the concept of Anti-Oppression Education as a framework for reflecting upon the implications of the choices we make through our social interactions and use of language. Anti-Oppression Education is a political stand against all forms of oppression, but this stand is not a platform stand, so to speak, it is more a stance on how we live a position of every day practice. Key ideas of Anti-Oppression Education are that everything we say and do is a form of communication and that resisting oppression must be active. In this session we will consider things such as: What does silence communicate? How do I handle uncomfortable situations with friends and family who might say something I find offensive, but I really rather not say anything? What if I mess up and offend someone inadvertently? Using real life scenarios as discussion points, this roundtable dialogue will foster reflection about and offer ideas for handling difficult situations that call for an Anti-Oppression practice.

  • The Invisible Privilege of Being Able-bodied
    Multipurpose Room; Panel and Discussion
    Chandler McBride and Stephanie Deible (students) with Dr. Karen Gipson (Physics Department).
          Three perspectives will be shared: an undergraduate quadriplegic student living in the dorms, a graduate student with Cerebral Palsy who lives and works on campus, and a faculty member with hemiparesis and residual expressive aphasia subsequent to a severe stroke. Q & A for the panelists will combine with interactive discussion of the invisible privilege of physical ability, using a list modeled after Peggy McIntoshs Invisible Knapsack work.

  • 3:00 - 3:50pm
  • Putting the Pieces of Autism Together
    Learning Lab; Engaged Pedagogy
    Emily Kade, Holly Miller, Samantha Breza, Debbie Wright (students) with Dr. Jamie Owen-DeShryver (Psychology Department).
          Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder involved in the Campus Links Program through Disability Support Resources at GVSU talk about their life experiences being on the Autistic Spectrum. Topics include explaining what Autism is and it's common characteristics, addressing misunderstood stereotypes and stigmas associated with ASD and having a Q&A discussion to answer any questions other members of the GVSU community might have pertaining to the topic of Autism. Campus Links is a residential mentoring program on campus that supports students with Autism Spectrum Disorder by pairing peer mentors with ASD students. Students will also get to share knowledge of their involvement with this program and how it has impacted their college experience. We hope to not only educate and engage fellow students, faculty and staff, but create an awareness and ongoing discussion about Autism.

  • From Facebook Memes to Immigration Policies: The Everyday Language of Modern Racism
    Multipurpose Room; Engaged Pedagogies and Interactive Lecture/Discussion
    Dr. Kathryn Remlinger (English Department) with students: Sabrina Hatfield, Amanda Donajkowski, Julie Blok, Joshua Spotts, Julie Bovee, Samuel Spelde, DeMario Bell, Jamie Bott, Kimberly Davis, Kaitlyn Liniewski, Carson Ratliff, Tyler Francovilla, Kathleen Gallagher, Tim O'Neil, and Katie Conigliaro.
          This interactive session will focus on how everyday uses of language reinforce and redefine racism. Rather than examining blatant and obvious forms of subordination, we will discuss the subtle ways that language functions to create and maintain contemporary racist ideologies. We will use examples from a recent class project to demonstrate the role of language in the processes of racialization and "othering" and discuss how our own awareness has developed from understanding the relationship between linguistic and social prejudices. Our examples of everyday language use include gaffs, linguistic appropriation such as mock Ebonics, mock Spanish, Facebook memes, advertisements, public statements by politicians, comics, and the myth that "sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me." Our goal is to not only foster awareness of "modern" subtle and indirect forms of racism, but also to show that racism is something many of us unknowingly take part in in our everyday lives . Our hope is that by developing this awareness, we can foster positive personal and community-wide change. We will present examples of linguistic subordination and ask the audience how the examples reflect linguistic subordination. We will then follow this with an open discussion.

  • 4:00 - 4:50pm
  • I Hear You: Learning About Difference Through Life Narratives
    Learning Lab; Roundtable
    Dr. Lisa M. Perhamus (College of Education) with Jazmin McMullen and Emily Gunsch (students).
          This session is grounded in the belief that deep personal, social and political change can happen when people hear each others life narratives. Studying how systems of oppression in the U.S. have become institutionalized and systematized in society is imperative for understanding processes of all kinds of marginalization among groups of people. But is also important to understand how people experience these structural imbalances of power.
          In this roundtable, we will talk about every day lived realities of power, privilege and marginalization. Each person has a life story, and we will discuss the potential for personal and societal transformation through the sharing of these life narratives. Abstract ideas take on a different shape when it is a persons life story. Sharing life narratives involves taking risks with one another and can be quite difficult to do, especially if the stories reflect different realities of power, privilege and oppression. But, it is precisely because of these different realities that we must learn how to talk to and listen to one another. We will discuss strategies for having these difficult conversations.

  • The Power of Language in Campus Rape Culture
    Multipurpose Room; Discussion and Workshop
    Dr. Marilyn Preston (Liberal Studies Department) and Megan Prangley (student).
          This will be a facilitated open discussion about rape culture at GVSU. We will focus specifically on an email communication sent by the GVSU Police department in early 2014. We will explore how that communication, as well as examples from other campuses, reinforce problematic assumptions about women, rape, and violence and how they propagate rape culture and silence rape survivors.

  • 5:00pm
  • Continued Conversations
    Exhibition Space
    Members of GVSU Counseling Center will be available for participants to continue processing any ideas encountered in the earlier sessions.

  • 5:00 - 5:50pm
  • Creating Inclusive Classrooms
    Learning Lab; Lecture Presentation
    Dr. Jennifer Stewart (Sociology Department).
          In this session, the GV Climate Study will be briefly reviewed. Examples of classroom experiences that lead to dissatisfaction with our efforts to be inclusive will be provided as well as both informal and pedagogical strategies for creating more inclusive climates in all courses, regardless of discipline.

  • We are Queer Lakers: Giving a voice to student struggle through art
    Multipurpose Room; Workshop/Roundtable
    Dr. Marilyn Preston (Liberal Studies Department) with Jake Carter, Lizzy Doezema, and Alex Lazo (students).
          Analysis of queer and racialized experiences at GVSU through the lens of art. Come share your stories through writing, drawing and other art forms. We will openly discuss our struggles as multifaceted students and how we all voice our experiences and overcome our struggles in order to create change around us. Stories will be collected, compiled, and shared with our community through portraits, photography and narratives (stories will only be shared with permission and may be confidential).

  • 6:00 - 6:50pm
  • Living our University Value of Inclusiveness
    Learning Lab; Presentation with Group Discussion
    Anthony Clemons and other "Speak Up!" students with Marlene Kowalski-Braun (Assistant Vice Provost for Student Affairs) and Dwight Hamilton, J.D. (Associate Vice President for Affirmative Action and Title IX Officer).
          The University has outlined inclusiveness as a University value. As such, we are challenged as an institution to live this value to its fullest. The University has a myriad of policies, procedures and practices that are designed to help us achieve in this arena, recognizing full well that we often fall short. In addition, language matters - what do we mean when we say diversity, inclusion, and equity?
    This session will facilitate a frank dialogue on the following tensions:
    • Our obligations as a public institution and advancing our values when it comes to expression.
    • The line between expression and conduct.
    • The tools and resources available to faculty, staff and students as we try to become an inclusive institution.
    Specifics to be discussed include: the University's non-discrimination statement, Anti-harassment Policy, Campus Climate Study, Gender Identity and Expression Committee, Inclusion Implementation Plan, Resources, Bias Incident Protocol (Speak Up! Campaign). The session will close with students who are part of the Speak Up! Campaign sharing their statements and commitment as part of this initiative.

  • Aggravating the White Space: Lessons from "The Color of Fear"
    Multipurpose Room; Video Clips with Engaged Pedagogy
    Ken Taber (Sociology Department) with Steven Eleazer (student).
          Using excerpts from the 1994 film "The Color of Fear" to introduce the fear whites have when asked to acknowledge the reality of racism. Eleaver will describe a comparable student discussion that took place on campus this past month, revealing the very dynamic of fear of color portrayed in the film years ago.  Some resolutions will be offered.

  • 7:00 - 7:50pm
  • Micro-aggressions: It all adds up
    Learning Lab; Interactive Workshop
    Rachel Blansett (LGBT Resource Center student and "Change U: Social Justice Training" Facilitator), Jeff Smith (LGBT Resource Center" Change U: Social Justice Training" Facilitator/Curriculum Developer) and Colette Seguin Beighley (LGBT Resource Center Director).
         This workshop is designed to do three things in light of the recent and ongoing acts of hate and bias that are occurring on the campus of GVSU. First, we will explore how individual acts of hate/bias are evidence of systemic or structural oppression, with the focus being on White Supremacy. Second, we will engage participants around the idea of White Supremacy at GVSU through an intersectional lens, thus making the connections between White Supremacy, Patriarchy, Homophobia/Transphobia, Ableism, Christian Supremacy and Classism. Lastly, participants will be asked to brainstorm ideas of how students, faculty and staff can respond to these forms of systemic oppression. Presenters will provide examples from various social movements.

  • Act on Racism
    Multipurpose Room; Panel and Discussion
    Members of Act on Racism (current and former GV students) with Dr. Jennifer Stewart (Sociology).
          Members of AoR will provide a window into their experiences on campus through a facilitated panel discussion.  Students will provide examples of bias they have been witness to or targets of.  They will also discuss resources that have helped them to negotiate their educational pathways as well as resources they believe we can provide to better ensure their successful completion of their collegiate education.  An opportunity to extend this discussion will be provided at their year-end.

  • 8:00 - 8:50pm
  • Constructing Gender on Campus
    Learning Lab; Workshop
    Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein (Sociology Department).
          This session encourages participants to consider how socially constructed notions of men and women impact social interactions and behavior on campus. Working in groups, participants will identify stereotypes of men and women and explore the impact of these stereotypes on our own behavior and our expectations of others.

  • "What's Race Got To Do With It?"
    Multipurpose Room; Video and Facilitated Dialogue
    Kristie Scanlon, Alli Roman, and Bobby Springer (Office of Multicultural Affairs) with Cecil Johnson (student and NAACP Executive Board Member).
          "Whats Race Got to Do with It?" is a documentary film that chronicles the journey of a diverse group of students participating in a 15-week intergroup dialogue program at U.C. Berkeley. The film is set up with ten short chapters, each highlighting the unique challenges and obstacles that marginalized students face compared to their peers. Some of the chapter titles include; "I'm more Black than ever," "A lot of us are getting pushed" and "I can be sure my race will not work against me." As the students share personal stories, debate hot topics, and confront one another about the role race plays in their lives, they make discoveries about their preconceived ideas and assumptions, and in so doing, help the audience begin to disentangle their own. The film provides a starting point for a deeper, more productive level of conversation. This session will include sharing some of the films chapters, followed by a facilitated dialogue on reactions and responses to film and how they see these same issues playing out on GVSU campus.

  • 9:00 - 9:50pm
  • Student Orgs, Stereotypes, Recruitment, and Retention: How can we intentionally diversify our RSO?
    Learning Lab; Engaged Pedagogy
    Anthony Clemons (Student Senate Vice-President for Diversity Affairs) with Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein (Sociology Department).
          Whether we realize it or not stereotyping has a large impact on how we run our student organizations. Through this interactive workshop participants will be able to recognize and understand how unconscious stereotyping negatively impacts recruitment and retention within your student organization; those present will leave will the ability to acknowledge and dismantle stereotyping within their respective organizations. Participants should come willing to share, engage, and interact with the presenters and each other.

  • The Disparate Impact of Stop and Frisk Practices
    Learning Lab; Workshop
    Dr. Brian G. Johnson and Terry Stockton (College of Education) with Michael Jones, Luis Valencia, and Jose Rodriguez (students).
          The 1968 case of Terry v. Ohio held that searches and seizures were legal as long as they were reasonable. These brief detentions, known as stop and frisk practices, were created to confirm or dispel that someone who was stopped had committed a crime. What was designed to be a safety measure has become, for some, a form of racial profiling that disproportionately affects African Americans and Hispanics. Although some see these stops as brief detentions, research shows that these stops can have lasting emotional and psychological effects upon individuals. Our teaching dialogue will discuss the reasonableness of stop and frisk practices and the effects of these practices on members of a panel of GVSU students. The panel members will also discuss issues of power and privilege by applying the tenets of Peggy McIntoshs Invisible Knapsack to their daily experiences.