Open House with a Twist

From: Public Affairs

Students welcome visitors to the House of Privilege in Chandler Hall

"Welcome to the House of Privilege. We specialize here in Reality Realty." So begins the tour of James Madison University's House of Privilege, an experiential look at issues of injustice, inequity and privilege in today's society.

The House of Privilege runs March 21-24 in Chandler Hall. Tours through the eight-room "house" are given every 15 minutes. Reservations for groups of five or more can be made on the House of Privilege website. Individual tickets for tours throughout the week will be distributed each evening based on availability.

The experiential tour gives participants the chance to subtly encounter what it is like to be underprivileged. According to Social Work Associate Professor Nancy Poe, participants will enter different rooms where volunteers act out short scenes that reveal different privileges, including cultural, socioeconomic, food, religion, heterosexism, etc. Each room also includes a "window of opportunity, providing a view of actions that participants can take to address privilege and embrace difference.

Junior Jeffery Coleman first went through the "house" last year to gain in-service credit for his job as a resident adviser. Not only did his experience inspire him to return this year as a volunteer, he also credits it with aiding in his decision to change his major to justice studies with a concentration in social justice.

"This experience will make you think critically about things you would have never thought about before," said Coleman. "House of Privilege truly inspires people to take steps to end oppression and make social change."

The House of Privilege concept and script were created three years ago by a committee of JMU faculty, staff and students as an alternative to a program started in the early 1990s, the Tunnel of Oppression. "We felt that the Tunnel focused too much on 'shock and awe' strategies and not enough on the broader scope of societal privilege," said committee member Greg Meyer, assistant director of Judicial Affairs. "We wanted to refocus the experience to be about participants witnessing privilege and being motivated to action.

"We must be willing to accept the fact that our privileges may negatively affect someone else," said Coleman. "It is important to take steps to end oppression, and the easiest way is to be informed. House of Privilege will do just that."

Currently over 500 people have signed up to tour the House of Privilege.

For more information please visit House of Privilege.

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March 17, 2011