Diversity retreat spotlights ableism and classism

Andrea Reyes, director of accessibility services, participates in the ableism and classism discussion during the diversity retreat series April 8 via Zoom. At the retreat, participants were asked to imagine scenarios where someone would not have core abilities to help cultivate empathy and respect for people with disabilities. / screenshot by Drake Ingram
Andrea Reyes, director of accessibility services, participates in the ableism and classism discussion during the diversity retreat series April 8 via Zoom. At the retreat, participants were asked to imagine scenarios where someone would not have core abilities to help cultivate empathy and respect for people with disabilities. / screenshot by Drake Ingram

Joslyn Aguilar
Staff Writer

Last week’s session of the University’s diversity retreat focused on classism and ableism.

Roughly 20 community members attended the event hosted via Zoom by Multicultural Affairs Director Daniel Loera.

Classism is the belief that a person’s social or financial status determines their place of belonging in society. Ableism is discrimination against those with disabilities. 

The spring diversity retreat sessions sponsored by the Center of Multicultural Services began March 4, and will run each Friday through May 6. This year’s themes are justice, diversity and equity.

At last week’s session, Loera focused on these isms, he said, because many people don’t think about them. 

But learning about ableism teaches people to be grateful for being able bodied and to support people who are not able bodied.

“Things can change in an instant,” Loera said.

Loera had the retreat participants use a web-based collaboration board where they could interact throughout the presentation.

Participants asked questions and did some self-reflection.  

“I had friends and classmates who had certain disabilities both physical and mental,” said Maya Sanchez, freshman art history major, who attended last Friday’s event. “It felt easier to be understanding of a physical disability but sometimes difficult to show that same ideology to the things we can’t see.”

One of the exercises broke down classism by dividing a board into three sections – working class, middle class and the upper class to provide details and facts, and characterize   each class.

Loera said many people stigmatize the working class as a class that deals with issues like drug addiction while the upper class is not stereotyped this way. However, the upper class face these issues as well, he said.

Izak Arias, sophomore history major, found themselves having a moment of epiphany as they learned more on these issues.

“I gained perspectives on not only ableism and classism but also the way they affect individuals that live their everyday lives in a society that may or may not be aware of these individuals’ struggles,” Arias said.

The next session of the Diversity Retreat series, at 1 p.m. today, focuses on racial identity and racism. For more information, contact Loera at dloera@laverne.edu, or Misty Levingston, associate director of multicultural affairs and Black student services, at mlevingston@laverne.edu.

Joslyn Aguilar can be reached at joslyn.aguilar@laverne.edu.

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Joslyn Aguilar, a junior communications major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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Drake Ingram, a junior criminology major and photography minor, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times.

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