Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Project Reflection!

Dan's picture

Standing on Walls

I was certain that I wanted to make a zine about privilege in institutions of higher learning as my final project since we read Delpit, probably because I was so affected by my conflicting desires to have a developed, very specific theoretical vocabulary (and use it) and then my recognition that ideas should be accessible, and that there is incredible value in speaking as simply as possible (more people will understand you!).

But, as the groups were deciding on their activism projects, I felt that someone should be documenting the development of all the projects and the 360 itself. So, I volunteered to be that person, and Sophia joined me.
Luckily, I was still able to make a zine (two, in fact). But, the film project ended up being where I placed most of my time and energy. It ended up manifesting itself in 3 parts and formed a life of its own. Sophia and I were meeting with other groups, interviewing all the members of our 360, and trying to come up with experimental/fictional supplements and transitions. After lots of discussion, we thought that voice and privilege -- who speaks at Bryn Mawr and why -- was the question we would focus on. It runs through all three courses, because in Voice, we looked critically at Bryn Mawr and discussed Perry House and institutional racism/oppression quite often. In Silence we talked about the codes of power and accessibility of academia, and in Vision, we explored how social factors, which are often invisible, affect the institutions we will be accepted and rejected by.

Thus, the film started with this very broad and general conversation about privilege -- someone (Eva Collier) calls it a conditioned “empowerment” or feeling “enabled.” Someone else (Shuo Yang) says “and it’s invisible to you, because you’ve always had it...” These kinds of statements, juxtaposed with images of Bryn Mawr, Perry House, social situations, and the classroom, were meant to prime the audience for the more specific examples of privilege to come.

The next part takes place in the classroom -- where privilege manifests itself often unnoticed at Bryn Mawr. A philosophy/critical theory professor who is completely unaware or apathetic to the social dynamics in the classroom is lecturing about the phenomenological world. The front row is all white, eager students who speak multiple times, and in individual interviews, they each talk about how easy the material is for them to understand, due to having encountered it in high school or at home. There are three students of color in the back row who do not speak and look confusedly or frustratedly at each other several times. In an interview, one of them tells us how lost she is and how she will have to go to office hours to let her professor know that she is trying.

  At the end of the clip, the professor says to the class, “those of you who are not participating, remember that participation is 20% of your grade.” Next we see interviews with two of the white students in the front row, who, without any knowledge of her own privileged positions, say that the students in the back row never speak and when they do it is not useful, and that they (the students in the back row) must not have done the reading. This represents the lack of awareness about privilege dynamics in historically white, male dominated disciplines.

Finally, the film transitions to the documentary segment of the film. During which, students talk about the ways in which they feel privileged and disprivileged at Bryn Mawr. They discuss how the college uses students of color for advertising campaigns and to represent the college as a diverse one, but the administration does not take steps to make those students actually feel like this college is for them. They also discuss how safe spaces need to be created to have discussions about diversity, and that sanctuaries need to exist for those who feel marginalized by the culture of the college (accompanied by footage of Perry House). The film ends with Irene Shin saying “It’s hard... and I feel very in-between it all,” which demonstrates the complicated, intersectional nature of identity and as well as how difficult it is to address and accommodate all the identities present within Bryn Mawr’s Walls.

I feel proud of how the film turn out. Sophia and I worked reallllly hard on it. Plus, everyone in the 360 made time to help us, so thank you all.

See video