At some point, each and every person has been faced with some form of oppression. This oppression can either be left unopposed and unquestioned, or it can be faced head on.
“A time comes when silence is betrayal.”
These powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be heard reverberating in the center of the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus, when the first tour group travels through the Tunnel of Oppression.
“The tunnel is a multimedia, sensory-based experience designed to educate people about various acts of oppression occurring in our world today,” said Brittany Tedeschi, a junior and the founder and chair of the Tunnel of Oppression at UM. “Each room in [the]tunnel covers a different issue, and tours last approximately 20 minutes.”
The Tunnel of Oppression, which will be held in the University Center Flamingo Ballrooms from 4 to 9 p.m. today through Wednesday, is a nationally-recognized program that takes place on more than 70 campuses across the nation. The goal behind the tunnel is to challenge students’ perceptions and beliefs on issues dealing with oppression and hatred.
“Tunnel is unique because it completely immerses participants in the program,” Tedeschi said. “It appeals to students because they are not being lectured at. Instead, in a way, it’s very similar to a stage production, in that it takes students out of their regular routine and places them into this low-lit environment, where all of their senses are alert.”
The Tunnel, a second-year organization at UM run through the Butler Center for Volunteer Service & Leadership, will comprise 10 different rooms: body image/sexual assault, global health issues, human rights, LGBTQA issues, mental/physical disabilities, poverty, racism, religion, tools of oppression, and violence.
“These are all very important issues which plague our society,” said Amar Mandalia, the president of the Indian Students’ Association and a participant in the Poverty Room. “ISA has gotten involved because we understand the importance of putting these issues, like poverty, out there. We want students to understand the issues and be given the opportunity to do something.”
The tunnel experience will culminate when the tour group gets to the final stage of the tunnel: the reflection wall. Here, participants will be given the opportunity to reflect on what they have just seen, heard and experienced, and, in the end, they will be allowed to write their thoughts on the reflection wall.
“It changed my perspective. It changed the way I looked at things,” junior John Anderson said. “When I got to the reflection room, I had so many different things going through my head. All I knew was that I had been impacted. Today I realize, through the new way I tend to look at different issues, just how much I was impacted.”
“We hope that by making people more aware of these atrocities, people will feel inspired and motivated to move from a heightened level of awareness to an innate desire to act, which is why, at the end, we have a room called ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel,'” Tedeschi said. “The Light Room provides participants with opportunities to get involved with organizations, both on campus and in the community, that work to end the oppressive acts outlined in the tunnel.”
Although last year, about 500 people came through the “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” this year’s executive board hopes that even more people will open themselves to “the tunnel experience.”
“The goal of Tunnel is to raise awareness about the many social issues affecting our world today,” Tedeschi said. “Nothing can ever change if people are not aware of the issues. If we do not take the time to raise the social consciousness of our community, we severely hinder our ability to make real changes.”
What: Tunnel of Oppression
Where: University Center Flamingo Ballrooms
Dates: Monday, April 27 – Wednesday, April 29
Time: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. (each day)