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September 21, 2023

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Display returns to demonstrate oppression, diversity to students

The Tunnel of Oppression is back at the University, once again giving students the opportunity to explore various issues of oppression in an interactive way.

This year, the “Tunnel” is located at the Union in room 308 today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Ana Brown, coordinator for diversity and retention initiatives for the Office of Residence Life, said that the purpose of the tunnel, which strives to teach students about issues concerning marginalized groups, is especially important for the University right now.

“This year has been about raising awareness and understanding, and also with things like the Call To Action group, I think people are seeing that it’s important to try to look at things from other perspectives,” she said.

Students will experience different themed rooms as they walk through the “self-guided and self-paced” tour. The committee that chose the focus of each room is made up of residence life staff members.

“It starts off with a terminology [room] because we think it’s important to understand what the words [concerning diversity issues] mean,” Brown said. “There is a big difference between the meanings of the words equity and equality, for example.”

There will be rooms decorated appropriately showing issues such as immigration, masculinity, beauty and othering.

Raul Fernandez, residence hall director for Kreischer, wanted to address the negative stereotypes that are often put on immigrants. He continues the focus on terminology by posting appropriate and inappropriate words to use when talking about immigration or immigrants on this part of the tunnel wall.

Fernandez also made sure to display immigration throughout history because so many people now think of it as a Mexican versus American issue.

“Immigration is much more than a Latino issue,” he said. “I just want people to think about what it means to be American, and are all the people who want to come here and live the American dream; are they American enough?”

One room that people may be surprised to walk through is one highlighting issues with masculinity, Brown said.

The words on the wall in the room like “sissy” or “tough guy” illustrate how men feel like they have to live up to views on what being a man is.

Societal views that have been deeply impressed in people’s beliefs are a major issue, Brown said.

“That’s why we say ‘come unlearn with us,’” she said. “We are all taught what is beautiful, what is right, what is good and what is bad, but what we want to help people realize is just because its our way of thinking doesn’t mean that it’s the way of thinking.”

The tunnel ends with a debriefing room which Brown says is “the most important piece.” The room is about reflecting on what has been learned or discovered on the walk through.

There are mirrors that people can write their feelings on and laptops will be set up so people can add their comments to the Tunnel of Oppression blog. At certain times throughout the day counselors will be available in a sectioned off area if anyone has anything further to work through.

Brown said the Office of Residence Life eventually wants to get students more involved by not just participating in the tunnel’s activities, but by getting them involved in setting up the rooms themselves.

“The next step is to get students involved next year and get their perspective,” Brown said.

Kevin Lewis, president of the Black Student Union, attended the tunnel last year and will likely stop by again and encourages students to attend.

“I think the tunnel is a good way to give students a hands on feel of what oppression is like,” he said. “You can only get so much from just reading [about oppression] so this is so much more of an effective way.”

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