We often put things in boxes.
We place labels on others and ourselves.
We create social boundaries based on these labels.
It’s important that we learn to go beyond these things in order to promote unity and equality in our community and on our campus.
This past weekend, 50 students — including myself — and faculty members attended the Beyond the Lines: Diversity and Social Justice retreat sponsored by the Office of Multicultural & Leadership Development.
At a conference center in Lake Placid we learned all about going deeper into the topics of self-identity and accepting others.
With presentations, activities and discussions on various topics from oppression and privilege to diversity and social justice, we gained a real understanding of each other and ourselves.
Ashton Hartley, FGCU’s Coordinator for Student Organization Development, gave a presentation on oppression and microaggressions.
Microaggressions, we learned, are indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.
Some typical microaggressions you may be used to hearing are, “you throw well for a girl” or that all Asians are Chinese.
“His lesson on microaggressions made me more aware of how I speak to people and more cautious of how I will speak to people in the future,” said Rori Evans, a freshman forensic science major, of Hartley’s presentation.
My personal favorite presentation was on privilege. As a straight, white male from a well-off family, I’ve often considered how my privilege affects my day-to-day life.
What surprised me, though, was that there are so many privileges I wasn’t aware of.
So often we stereotype privileges to mean race, gender or socioeconomic class. What we don’t realize is that there are many other aspects of privilege. The privilege that surprised me most was education.
As college students, we probably don’t consider how fortunate we are to attend college, especially one as amazing as FGCU.
Many young adults aren’t privileged enough to receive a college education, or possibly even a high school one.
Jay Collazo, a freshman social work major, also attended the retreat.
When asked about her most important aspect of the trip, she said she appreciated the small group component.
“I enjoyed being put into a smaller group of people I didn’t know, connecting with them, and seeing their personal experiences with life issues,” Collazo said.
My own small group was a great group of people, led by Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life Torrie Jackson.
I think the ability to have in-depth discussions with people was also my favorite component, with the large group activities coming at a close second.
Beyond being mentally stimulating, the retreat was physically challenging as well.
In our small groups, we participated in the challenge course, which were ten team activities designed to promote unity between team members.
In addition to the challenge course, basketball was a huge extracurricular component of the trip.
Hartley really promoted friendly competition — emphasis on competition — between those of us who participated.
While it’s always nice to spend the weekend away, it’s even better to get such a valuable experience out of the time spent.
The information gained on this retreat is going to be useful in our everyday lives, whether that means at FGCU or after we graduate.
Everyone on the trip agreed that this information needs to be more available to our fellow students around campus.
Experiences like Beyond the Lines are beneficial to the entire student body.
“It would be beneficial for everyone to attend Beyond the Lines because it educates and makes you aware of the world around you,” said Samantha Wills, a freshman exercise science major.
“The point of the retreat is to make you realize that the lines that society draws in the sand to divide all of us are simply social constructs,” Wills said. “When you learn to look past those lines, we are all individuals and we are more alike than we are different.”
The retreat was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to create relationships with people I most likely wouldn’t have met otherwise.
I’m extremely thankful to the Office of Multicultural & Leadership Development for providing this retreat for students, and I would highly recommend that every student attend.
We’ve gone “Beyond the Lines,” and now you should, too.