Students Explore Social Inequality and Promote Discussion at Social Justice Institution

Divided into three separate groups named after ice cream flavors — chocolate, vanilla and strawberry—students were instructed to create the best hypothetical school possible with the resources allocated to them. As the game progressed and the competition intensified, the differences between each group slowly unravelled, revealing that the vanilla group had received an unlimited supply of play money and space in Kemper Auditorium to plan their school, the strawberry group received an average amount, and the chocolate group had the least. Eventually, the game reached a point where the vanilla group’s school underwent rapid advancement, having a school with 16 classrooms while the chocolate group’s school only had one classroom.

Avery Kim ’17 said that students realized how the exercise demonstrated how classism effects different social groups and gives one class more privilege than the others. This game was one of numerous activities in which students partook during the Social Justice Leadership Institute.
75 students dedicated to social justice from ten peer schools arrived on campus on Saturday, October 30, and stayed until the evening of Sunday, November 1, for the Social Justice Institute. At the conference, students of various races, classes, genders and sexual orientations participated in workshops and exercises, all of which encouraged them to speak up about their experiences with identity.

This year marks the Social Justice Leadership Conference’s second year. The conference was facilitated by the Social Justice Institute, a joint collaboration between Andover and the Boston Mobilization organization, started several years ago during the making of the book, “Out of the Blue.” The book is a collection of anonymous stories from Andover students, all of which address one of seven themes regarding identity: class, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, geographic origin and ability.

During the conference, students focused on different types of social inequality like sexism, racism and classism, as well as the ways these inequalities intersect and how students can promote discussion and change in their environments. All 75 students stayed overnight on campus—students who identify as male slept in Kemper Auditorium and those who identify as female slept in the Abbot School Room.

Linda Carter Griffith, Assistant Head of School for Equity and Inclusion, said “There is the education that comes with [the activities], but [the program is] also about being equipped to be an upstander in your own school communities, to help positive change happen in the cultures in our schools.”
Sydney Olney ’17 found the ice cream game the most insightful activity in which she participated.

“I was in the chocolate group and at first we were trying to reason with the school board, which [was] being played by the facilitators and they kept on taking out our people and putting them in jail, because we were walking without police escorts,” said Olney.

“I don’t come from a specific background where I am really aware of other people’s privilege so this was like a really eye opening kind of activity,” Olney continued.

For Jungwoo Park ’19, the most powerful activity was the “gender walk,” an activity in which students would stand in a circle and listen to facilitators read various statements aloud. When students identified with a statement, they took a step further into the circle.

“At the end, all the cis males were at the middle of the room and all the women were at the outside, and all the non-conforming folks were at the very edge. Once it was revealed to me it was quite obvious that was true. Unless I was really looking for it, I would not have been able to see those things,” said Park.
“I come from a pretty sheltered and conservative town where things such as gender, race, sexuality and class aren’t really talked about and conversations about them are pretty frowned upon so I felt like I was pretty ignorant before coming here. I really appreciate the kind of knowledge and the experience that I have been able to gain,” he added.

Park also found the conference’s collaboration with other schools as a great way to develop a deeper understanding of the topics discussed over the weekend.
“I think it is wonderful because there is only so much that can be learned and experienced from one school. I think it is great how this program is bringing together people from all around the world,” said Park.

Cindy Espinosa ’18 thought the conference was an emotional experience in general.

“I definitely had no idea about what I was getting myself into because… it was actually an emotional whirl throughout the experience, and it opened up my eyes to institutional issues involving race, gender that I hadn’t delved into thinking about,” said Espinosa.

“Some of [the stories] were really personal… [students] talked about assault and catcalling as an example of violence and at the conference, everybody was connecting with their own experiences. I found solidarity with these people,” she continued.

Students from ten schools attended the conference, including students from Phillips Exeter Academy, Choate, Northfield Mount Hermon, Putney School, Cushing, Brooks, Concord Academy and St. Paul’s. 21 students from Andover joined the conference.

Griffith hopes that students that participated in the conference will impart with the knowledge learned from the weekend and use it to create change.