Bryn Mawr offering social-justice boot camp to fight 'privilege'

Incoming freshmen at three elite colleges are encouraged to apply for a week-long social justice boot camp to learn how to fight power, privilege, and racism.

The “Tri-College Identity, Equity and Social Justice Summer Institute,” a social justice boot camp co-organized by Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore College, and Haverford College, is slated to be held just before classes start in August.

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The program vows to teach freshmen about issues surrounding “gender, race, sexuality, socioeconomic class, spirituality, ability and power and privilege” while offering strategies on  how to fight for social justice “on their campuses and beyond,” according to the program description.

For 60 students (20 from each of the three schools), the boot camp will play host to a number of social justice themed activities, including games, exercises, reflective writing, improvisational theater, field trips and more.

“The goal of the program is to enable first-year students... to learn how to become effective social agents for change,” the program description explains.

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In an effort to establish a more diverse set of students, the application asks interested candidates to disclose their racial identity, country of origin, gender identity, socioeconomic status, and religion, noting that this information is helpful in the “decision-making process to create a diverse cohort across a range of identities and experiences.”

However, program directors did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Campus Reform on whether race, gender, or socioeconomic status impact a student's’ chances of being accepted.

Current students who have been enlisted to help lead the program are involved in a variety of student groups, including the “Anti-Capitalist” club, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Womxn of Color group, with some Haverford students praising last year’s iteration of the institute as opening their “eyes to social justice.”

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“The program definitely helped me become a more conscious individual,” said Ruben Aguilar, who graduated in 2016 with a degree in Chemistry. “Different aspects allowed me to understand privileges I have which are associated with different facets of my life.”

Meanwhile, Jeremy Steinberg, who graduated in 2016 with a degree in Religion, said the program “opened [his] eyes to social justice, which became a central theme of [his] Haverford career." 

Campus Reform reached out to Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore for more information on the institute, but none responded in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article: @Toni_Airaksinen