What is Allyship?

Last week I participated in an allyship workshop that asked: how can we form allies in work or any personal relationships?  The leaders of the workshop challenged participants with thoughtful questions/scenarios and examples of allyship/relationships with people that we might rarely think about. For example, we were asked to reflect:  What was one time when you tried to establish allyship, but it didn’t work?  The question caused me to reflect back on experiences I hadn't revisited. It was important to have this reflection as it enabled me to consider a lack of connection/similarity between myself and others in failed allyship scenarios I have encountered. That lack of connection and similarity could be the cause of failed allyship.    We also discussed how difficult it is to ensure everyone feels welcome in institutions such as U of T. Think about professors: how much is too much interaction between professors and students? What are the "right" questions to ask without offending anyone and making sure everyone is included? This is especially crucial in Canada and on our campus, where people come from multiple backgrounds and there are many things we don’t know about each other. While it might seem the session provided more questions than answers, at its core, the session helped create conversations to challenge assumptions.  Overall, it was also an eye-opening experience as a Life Science student. There are not many opportunities to engage in discussions with different U of T community members like graduate students and faculty. I appreciated how participants were able to share and discuss our thoughts on lived experiences through identifying and connecting with people with shared experiences. Experiences like expressing a time when we felt oppressed for some reason, and also listening to the aspirations of others in terms of the best ways to create allyship at U of T.  Allyship depends on many individual factors like their lifestyle, where an individual works, personal relationships etc. I recommend this workshop because its approach allows for diverse learning styles and instills lifelong lessons.  Students can register for the workshop through CLNx.

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