Tunnel of Oppression gives students unique way to experience diversity

By Robin Dean

Containing six different booths, each providing a three-minute interactive exhibit, the Tunnel of Oppression hopes to give flashes of insight on the different perspectives of some of the students on campus.

“It’s the one event that reaches such a broad audience,” said Aline SredniMD, junior in LAS and head coordinator of the event. “It is quick and one of the most effective social justice events held on campus.”

Since its commencement on campus in 2010, the Tunnel of Oppression has given various RSOs the opportunity to represent students on campus who may feel mistreated. From different religions to sexual orientations, the event sheds some light on what it may be like being a member of the various communities represented.

“It is a social justice experiment,” said Andy Contreras,MD sophomore in LAS and Tunnel of Oppression board member. “We grab different identity groups and try to show that there is still oppression still going on.”

Each year, the Ikenberry multipurpose rooms are transformed to resemble an underground passage consisted of different booths that are decorated by each represented RSO. From narratives to spoken poetry, each booth is meant to contain an interactive and engaging experience.

“It’s kind of set up like a haunted house,” Sredni said. “Each booth is decorated by their own organization so they all look very different.”

Those attending the event are separated into groups of five to eight and are then led through the tunnel, stopping at each booth containing a three-minute presentation. Once they have visited each booth, participants then attend a debrief session in order to process what they were exposed to.

“Being such a big campus, I think that it is important to have an event that aims to teach people about how others are feeling on this campus,” Sredni said. “You start to understand and see the struggles that others go through, even things that may have never crossed your mind.”

Bana ZayyadMD, senior in Engineering and vice president of the Muslim Students Association, also agrees that the Tunnel of Oppression is a beneficial opportunity to gain more knowledge about students on campus that may be misrepresented.

“By dispelling some misconceptions and opening up the vision of what it’s like to be a part of an oppressed group on campus, you are more likely to look more into yourself and see if it is something you are doing and hopefully change that behavior,” Zayyad said.

With Muslim Students Association being one of the RSOs participating in this year’s event, Zayyad said the organization hopes to reach other people by giving them an accurate representation of what it is like being a Muslim on campus. She said they hope to use the misconceptions of Muslims that are portrayed in the news and media in order to make others understand the inaccuracy of how they are represented.

“What we are trying to do is to allow people to see what it is like to be Muslim on campus. All the good, all the bad, all the ugly, and everything in between,” Zayyad said. “I’m hoping to illustrate this with the manifested stories that have made national headlines that maybe some people don’t know about, but are ridiculous in every single way.”

Zayyad, like most of the other participating RSOs, wants to create a fully immersive experience that appeal to all of the senses. She said she hopes to incorporate captivating visuals, audios and narratives in order to achieve this goal.

“Hopefully with people being exposed to this all at once, they can really gather and collect the full picture of what it’s like to be either privileged or underprivileged,” Zayyad said.

With other universities offering the same opportunity through their own Tunnel of Oppression, Sredni believes that this event can even make a significant impact nationally.

“If every university, or every big organization has something like Tunnel, which is aimed to educate others about oppression, I think it can be very impactful,” Sredni said. “People on this campus are very accepting, but just aren’t aware of the struggles that we each go through individually. Being accepting is great, but I think that understanding is very important.”

Contreras said the Tunnel of Oppression aims to create a more unified campus by giving a voice to those who may not have the opportunity to share their perspective.

“Our theme is that oppression can only survive through silence,” Contreras said. “So we are speaking up and showing everyone that it’s not just hatred, but it is just people not being informed that lets this go on.”

Although the event began on Monday, all are invited to participate in the eye-opening experience this Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. With tonight being the last night it is showcased, students are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Most of all, what’s really great about (Tunnel) is that it’s a collection of everyone who is feeling the same thing,” Zayyad said. “It is a boat of people who just right off the bat have different struggles and different problems, but really is the same essential problem. That’s what’s really beautiful.”

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