It was our first Values workshop, and I was extremely excited to get started seeing as most of our imputs so far had been in a lecture theatre. I love the lecture hall set up, and have already had my eyes opened greatly in regards to a variety of social issues e.g. race, discrimination and feminism. Although on the other hand, I feel within the first few weeks of University or any new environment, it can be a tad intimidating speaking out in front of such a large group. This is why I was extra hyped for being in a smaller, more intimate group. Not only would I be able to familiarise myself with others I had not yet spoken to, I would also feel more confident in contributing my ideas to the class as a whole.
Oh how I was wrong.
We were split into 5 groups, each given an envelope containing stationary items and told to make a “Starter Pack” that would help first years in their journey to beginning University. Easy right? Well as I sat with my new acquainted group, a first glance revealed that all the envelopes looked the same. As I stared unnaturally toward the lecturer, whilst the rest of my group were chatting, I realised that some of the envelopes seemed fuller than others. Admittedly, I selfishly and silently hoped for one with more resources. Much to my disappointment, we were given an envelope with next to nothing in it, a mere;
3 paper clips
An elastic band
One post-it note
A little blue tack
Looking around the room I saw a rainbow of coloured paper, pens, highlighters, post-its and more that had been given to other groups. My immediate thought was this was not fair – I considered going to one of the tables to ask for some resources but decided against it. Essentially it was a first impression to not only my newly acquainted peers but also the lecturer, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, rude or that I was cheating.
My mind raced to my senior years at school. We had an inspirational careers talk where the main message portrayed was “If you want something, then go and get it.” At the beginning of the talk, he visibly put a £20 note inside a book and placed it carefully. During the talk, he waved the note a number of times whilst repeating, “If you want something, then go and get it.” We sat for what seemed hours before I realised the point of the talk. I ran from my seat at the back of the hall to the stage in front of my fellow senior students and grabbed the note from his hand and reiterated his previous quote to him. My school friends were in awe whilst the teachers laughed and the man making the speech said, “Finally!”
Growing up, I almost got everything I asked for so it was strange to be on the back foot of a challenge for a change. Especially because of my very competitive nature as my neighbourhood was solely boys, I grew up playing football, bulldogs and male dominated activities resulting in me always wanting to win. Even if it was just against my brother!
Naturally, we were a tad deflated by the lack of resources provided which caused some tension but we soon picked ourselves up and brain stormed some ideas. Ideas mentioned were sparse and some were shut down immediately which caused a gloom, almost confused atmosphere among the group. Eventually we agreed and begun to make a 3D student friendly map using the envelope provided – we used the paper clips unravelled as a path to each destination we felt were important to know e.g. the Dalhousie building, Belmont Flats, the Union and the library.
Throughout the task, we were ignored to a point where one of my team members was visibly annoyed whereas the rest muttered behind their breaths. When the lecturer would look over what we thought to be a very creative idea considering the resources we got compared to others, she would make a distasteful face and commented negatively in regard to our idea implying that it was “not good enough”. I felt this was harsh as we had really came together and contributed to the task immensely. Perhaps more than the other groups, who were basically given the task on a plate whilst we inevitably had to work much harder.
Then came the presenting of the ideas, the first group had the lecturers full attention whilst she smiled and praised them, again with the second and third group. Our turn was next, I actually felt embarrassed to explain our idea proudly because of the constant remarks that were given which is not like me at all. I was brought much differently. She ignored us whilst we spoke which frustrated the team even further. She scored each team with ours being the lowest mark in the class… obviously.
We complained as a group where we eventually realised this was a test – just like the test back in my senior years at school. How could I fall for a trick not once, but twice?
Although not so severe, my recent studies in psychology surrounding Milgram’s obedience to authority springs to mind.
I was more likely to react in a room full of peers and teachers that I was familiar in my senior years than I was in a new environment, suggesting in my opinion that I was experiencing a certain degree in obedience to authority during this task. Likewise with the groups who had more resources than they knew what to do with, were they just following orders and completing the task or purposely acting in an unjust manner?
In conclusion, this workshop which seemed pointless to me at the time opened up a range of thoughts to me personally and to our groups. Group discussion involved the groups with the most resources’ ignorance to those with less as they had no idea the struggle we were facing. Which perhaps reflects today’s society well – we do not recognise those who need help, though praise and give our time those who possibly do not need it as much.