Students gathered Sunday in Couzens Residence Hall to learn about the importance of allies and allyhood as part of the Residence Hall Association’s event titled “Becoming an Ally: The Basics of Understanding Diversity.”
Event leaders described allyhood as important in supporting and diversifying voices of oppressed groups. Allies are typically members of a group perceived to be privileged or dominant in society.
LSA sophomore Drew Walker, chair of the RHA Committee for a Diverse and Welcoming Community, said her goal for the event was for people to learn something new and feel inspired to help people in marginalized groups.
Walker added that though the University is a diverse campus, diversity and the presence of minority students has dwindled since the 2006 state ban on affirmative action.
The event was the fourth and final in a series of diversity events hosted by RHA this year. Other events included discussions about cultural appropriation and feminism in Miley Cyrus’ new image and the portrayal of women in Disney movies, as well as a screening of the movie “42” for Black History Month.
Walker said she hopes these events change the way students view the RHA.
“People have this image that RHA is just a funding source,” Walker said. “But we have a lot of strength on campus … and can be really beneficial to people living in residence halls.”
Participants discussed privilege and how identities affect different situations. In groups, students were randomly assigned an identity such as Muslim, obese, light-skinned, middle-class, blind or physically disabled. Students were asked to consider how these identities would affect them in certain situations, such as when applying to a corporate level job or how they would act at a frat party.
LSA junior Emily Paull said this activity made her think more about what others with different identities might face, particularly those with learning disabilities.
“At Michigan, there is such a strong environment of competition, people are so focused on getting the grade and having the GPA,” Paull said. “People don’t stop and think about people who have a learning disability.”
Paull said an understanding of allyhood is critical to celebrate the diversity that exists on campus.
Walker said people usually think of an ally as an LGBTQ ally, but she thinks the definition of allyhood is broader.
“I think an ally can be in any form, if you’re in a minority, a female or someone with a disability,” Walker said. “Even just a plain old friend is an ally.”