CEI instructor asks students to list examples of white, male privilege in ‘Privileges Activity’
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IDAHO FALLS — A College of Eastern Idaho instructor told students to complete an assignment that is now getting national attention — and not for good reasons.
Students were instructed to identify privileges specific to “men, Caucasian and members of the majority religion” — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — in eastern Idaho, in a “Privileges Activity” that a student’s parent shared with The College Fix.
The assignment was handed out in one of the several sections of Fundamentals of Oral Communication offered at the college. The instructor’s name is not being released by CEI and it’s unclear exactly when the assignment was given but CEI President Rick Aman said the same instructor has given this assignment to students in the past and there were never any issues.
“Completing this assignment honestly may cause some to feel that their identity is being challenged or questioned. Be sure to approach this assignment with the goal of achieving understanding and improving our communication with others,” the assignment states at the top.
It goes onto talk about how there are certain privileges that come with being perceived as an attractive person. Those privileges aren’t given to all attractive people all the time, the activity mentions, adding that “they are just tendencies that occur on a fairly regular basis.”
“Also important to remember when completing this exercise – being a member of a privileged group does not mean that you didn’t work hard to get where you are; it simply means that some of the barriers that less-privileged groups face were less likely to impede your progress,” according to the activity.
Students were asked to list male privileges and expectations for men. The activity explains that “just as there are privileges that come with attractiveness or being male, there are also privileges associated with race.” The activity says this is true for individuals belonging to the majority Caucasian population in the United States.
If students were unable to identify examples of white privilege, it means “that in itself represents a privilege.”
The final set of questions asked students to identify privileges that Latter-day Saints are given in eastern Idaho.
“Please note that the focus of this assignment is identifying privilege, not to single out or pick on any one group of people,” the activity reads.
When the student, whose parent shared the activity with The College Fix, disputed the assumptions in the activity and said other groups have their own privileges, the instructor and other students “shamed him in a sexist and racist way while claiming their virtue signal points,” the parent wrote in an email to the news outlet.
The student asked why the class wasn’t considering “female privileges or black privilege” and the instructor said that “we might talk about those another time.”
“With academic freedom, we don’t monitor our faculty. They have general outcomes for each of these classes, and they use specific assignments to meet those outcomes. We don’t check that,” Aman explained. “We hire excellent teachers and expect them to exercise judgment.”
The student requested a meeting with Mike Walker, CEI’s Dean of Student Affairs, who reportedly told the student to “put up with the bias in the class” and “just try to finish.”
Aman wouldn’t confirm to EastIdahoNews.com if the student talked with Walker, but he says the student did voice their issue with a Student Affairs staff member.
“There’s a difference between venting and filing a formal complaint and the student was asked multiple times, ‘Do you want to file a formal complaint?’ And the answer was no,” Aman says.
It’s possible the student believed that he was filing a complaint by talking with a CEI employee, Aman added, but nothing was ever done in writing.
The student said he’d have to petition the CEI board in order to change classes now, so his plan for the moment “is to just sit through the class and just do the tests and whatnot,” The College Fix reports.
Administrators spoke with the instructor on Friday after the issue made national news, according to Aman. The college president wants people to know CEI is apolitical and does not have a political agenda.
“We serve everyone from left, right, and center, any religious or non-religious student, we don’t care. We welcome everyone,” Aman says. “We also have the expectation that we will talk about current topics, but we’ll do it in a respectful way. … We are not the institution characterized in The College Fix.”