New resource guide creates common language for allyship

Following multiple incidents of urination on the door of the Intercultural Center (IC) and ensuing outrage from students in various IC groups,  it became clear that people inside and outside of organizing spaces had a lot to learn. While many of the students participating in discussions were well-versed on terms such as oppression and allyship, others were not.

At a teach-in that brought together faculty and students, Social Science Librarian Sarah Elichko said that some of the faculty expressed that they did not know the terminology being used in these conversations.

Similarly, Abigail Henderson ’14, a student involved with the protests last spring, noted that at the time, “I saw people who were in the throes of protests, those who didn’t understand what was going on, and people who wanted to participate in these conversations but just didn’t have the language to say anything.”

With this in mind, Elichko contacted alum Maddy Reichman ’13 to ask if she and fellow students would be interested in collaborating with the library to make a resource guide available.

During this time, students involved in facilitating teach-ins and demanding administrative action, realized this gap in knowledge and had already begun the process of compiling a list of terms. Students shared the list on a GoogleDoc and invited their friends to contribute to the document until about 100 students were added onto the list.

With this framework, Elichko and students were able to collaborate to create a resource guide. After several correspondences and some meetings, things became to fall into place. Students Ali Roseberry-Polier ’14, Abigail Henderson ’14, Eleanor Pratt ’14, and Joyce H. Wu ’15 were interested in contributing and creating the guide, with Elichko and the library’s help.

Each student is part of a larger aspect of the guide’s production. Henderson became the Organizations Section Editor, Roseberry-Polier became the Definitions Section Editor, and Wu became the Articles and Books Section Editor. Pratt took on the publicity.

The result was the Anti-Oppression and Allyship Resource Guide. This guide offers a list of definitions, organizations, article and books to provide a starting point to explore issues of allyship, privilege, and oppression. The guide is currently on Tripod, the research guide for the Tri-College Consortium, and is open not only to students and faculty but to anyone with internet access.

The guide is primarily intended as a tool for self-education and covers a range of issues with the purpose of facilitating conversation and further action. As the creators said, the guide provides a compilation of information and resources for those who wish to learn more for themselves. “We want people to be able to use [the guide] as a tool so that the role of providing information isn’t unfairly placed on, for example, disabled students or students of color,” said Pratt.

The guide is not, however, a finished project and its creators intend for it to expand and grow with further contributions. Roseberry-Polier said that she sees one of the largest challenges to be establishing that the guide is an ongoing project. “I’m not an expert,” she explained. “I’m compiling it but I have a lot more to learn too, and I don’t want anyone to think that everything is on the site because it’s a constant ongoing guide.”

The title of the guide was deliberately crafted to convey that this is a work in progress and not a single solution. “We’re still missing a lot of things,” Pratt said, “but I see what we have as a great starting point.” So far, Pratt says, the guide is still missing key terms such as “gender,” a large word which is intimidating to tackle; however, the team is working on making the guide more well-rounded.

Thus far, reactions to the guide have been largely positive. There was a launch party for the guide on November 22 to celebrate the publication of the guide on the Tripod website.

“At the launch party we got a lot of positive feedback and constructive criticism such as what new definitions to add, but there has been no negative reaction,” said Wu.

Currently, the guide has nearly one hundred definitions, ranging from “ability” to “xenophobia,” as well as a range of links to articles and sources. The editors are open to suggestions of new terms and also to alterations to existing definitions. After the launch party, Pratt said she received an email informing her that the definition for “hapa” should be edited to include that the word was originally used as a derogatory term.

“It was great to see that someone took the time to read the definitions, think about it and let us know about this mistake,” she said.

As editor of the definitions section, Roseberry-Polier received a lot of feedback about adding new definitions. “I don’t want it to just be the five of us contributing to the guide,” she said, “Everyone has some knowledge and it’s helpful to put it in one place for people to access.”

The creators hope that the guide will become a resource that students are aware of and can apply to various aspects of their lives at Swarthmore. As a resident assistant (RA), Pratt said she would like to see the guide used in residence halls. She explains,“If someone on my hall says something offensive I can tell them ‘don’t say that’ and give them a resource from the guide to explain why they shouldn’t.” Hopefully, the guide will continue to grow and become a well-used resource for students and faculty alike.

The Phoenix