American universities are now offering a wide range of exercises to help ‘privileged’ students become aware of their own privilege and its impact on others.
The term ‘privilege,’ in most instances, can be attributed to people who are white, male, and/or straight, or even those who are Christian.
For example, the University of Michigan was hosting a “Privilege Walk Activity,” in which they instruct students of ‘privilege’ to “take a step forward if you can legally marry the person you love,” leading many students to confusion, seeing as same-sex marriage is now legalised across the US.
Interestingly, information on the activity has now been removed from the University of Michigan website, perhaps as result of the embarrassment it caused.
Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill now offers a “Cultural Competence Activity” which asks people to step forward based on variables such as if “your family owns a house,” or “if public transport was a requirement not a choice.”
The activity is followed by a group discussion where people are asked how the activity made them felt, whether it was helpful and whether it was an accurate representation of class privilege. However, students are warned that it is a “high-risk activity.”
Elsewhere, at the University of Arizona, Residence Life sponsors a privilege walk race which “encourages participants to become critical of their personal privileges associated with race.” It also has a long list of questions ranging from whether one calls the police when trouble occurs to whether one’s native language is English.
It also labels the activity with a trigger warning of “medium risk level” as it can “trigger challenging and emotions from participants.”
As is the case with most the activities, it asks students, “How are you feeling right now?”