Promoting Allyship For An Inclusive Campus

Rock Valley College is committed to creating and sustaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus where all learners can make progress towards their educational and career goals. And RVC’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) supports that mission through various activities and initiatives, in collaboration with students, employees, and community partners.

Last semester, Lien Vu, DEI Specialist, led a workshop titled Four Steps to Being an A.L.L.Y. The workshop was presented as part of the series of Student Success Workshops offered by the First Year Experience Office. The workshop covered what it means to be an ally and what steps people can take to be a true ally on campus, in their workplaces, and in life in general.

So, what is an ally? An ally is any person from a dominant group who stands with and advocates for someone in the minoritized group.

A dominant group is a group of people with power, privileges, and social status that controls the major elements of a society’s norms and values. A minoritized group may include race and ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sex, socioeconomic status, and disabilities.

And people can occupy more than one minoritized and/or dominant group. For example, a middle-class white man who has a mental illness.

Looking at the word A.L.L.Y. as an acronym, we can find the four steps to being an ally – Act, Listen, Learn, and Yield.

The first step is to act. "Being an ally can be uncomfortable and inconvenient,” explained Lien. “An ally acts. They question power imbalances in the social systems that they benefit from, they make sacrifices in comfort, reputation, energy, and time, and they learn from their mistakes made along the way.” Allies confront and interrupt oppression by speaking up.

The second step is to listen. An ally must listen to and trust marginalized people’s lived experiences. Allies should not invalidate others’ experiences.

The third step is to learn. “Allies should educate themselves about power and privilege,” Lien said. “Ask questions, be curious, and do your own research!”

Lastly, allies should yield and be aware of the space(s) they’re occupying. Lien added, “Don’t try to ‘save’ people. Minoritized groups should always be at the front of this work.”

These four steps are guidelines to help people be allies. And being an ally is a verb, not a noun, meaning that the work never really ends. Most importantly, Lien reminds us, “You don’t get to determine whether you’re truly an ally.” Marginalized individuals observe and determine from their experiences whether someone is acting like an ally.