Uses of Power and Privilege[1]

In the COE programming for the AY 206-2017, we would like you to consider explorations of power and privilege.  This statement offers some guides for defining those terms.

As a result of various historical and structural processes, our society is organized around relationships of Power and Privilege.

Power describes the sociopolitical processes that characterize one groups interaction with another.[2] At the individual level, it describes the capacity of individuals to control resources and influence decision making processes that have positive or negative outcomes for particular groups or individuals.

Privilege is a subtle and often invisible form of power which props up and normalizes certain viewpoints and experiences while portraying alternative views and experiences as non-normative or undesirable.[3]

Collectively, power and privilege are mutually reinforcing and advantages certain groups of people while marginalizing and oppressing others.

Power and Privilege dynamics are shaped by how individuals are positioned according to their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, ability as well as class in social and institutional settings.

In the University setting in particular, power and privilege dynamics are often displayed in interactions between administrators and faculty, faculty and staff and students and faculty and administrators. 

Potential questions to explore:

  1. What is power and privilege?
  2. How does power and privilege playout in our society, our community, and in our college?
  3. How is power and privilege experienced in your life? How does it interfere, mediate, or influence your relationships?
  4. How does one confront barriers reinforced by power and privilege?
  5. How can you address barriers reinforced by power and privilege as a student, faculty, staff, educator, helping professional, parent, community member?

[1] By Marius Kothor in collaboration with MCI Research Consortium members, Lindsay Jarratt and Amanda Mollet

[2] Sherry K. Watt, “Moving Beyond the Talk: From Difficult Dialogue to Action” in Why aren’t we there Yet?: Taking Personal Responsibility for Creating an Inclusive Campus, ed. Jan Arminio, Vasti Torres and Raechele L. Pope (Sterling: Stylus Publications, 2012), 133.

[3] Antoinette Myers and Yuka Ogino Power, Privilege and Oppression [PDF Document]. Retrieved from: