Tunnel of Oppression highlights global prejudices

At some point, each and every person has faced some form of oppression. This can either be left unopposed and unquestioned, or it can be faced head on.

“The Tunnel [of Oppression] is a multimedia, sensory-based experience designed to educate people about various acts of oppression occurring in our world today,” said Brittany Tedeschi, a senior 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.”

Held in the University Center Flamingo Ballrooms, the Tunnel 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 both 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.”

A second-year organization at UM run through the Butler Center for Volunteer Service & Leadership, the Tunnel comprises 10 different rooms ranging from body image/sexual assault to violence.

Adrianne D'Angelo, Stephanie Novotny, and Ashley Mckevitt help set up the Sexual Assault portion of the Body Image/Eating Disorders Room in the Tunnel of Oppression.  TANYA THOMPSON // ASSISTANT PHOTO EDITOR
SPREADING THE WORD: Adrianne D’Angelo, Stephanie Novotny, and Ashley McKevitt help set up the Sexual Assault portion of the Body Image/Eating Disorders Room. Tanya Thompson // First Impression Staff

“These are all very important issues which plague our society,” said Amar Mandalia, the president of the university’s Indian Students’ Association and a participant in the Poverty Room exhibit. “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.”

Its experience culminates when the tour group gets to the final stage of the tunnel: the reflection wall. Here, participants are given the opportunity to reflect on what they have just seen, heard and experienced.

“It changed my perspective. It changed the way I looked at things,” senior 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.”

Tedeschi and the university expect more participants next year through both exposure and word of mouth.

“The goal of Tunnel is to raise awareness about the many social issues affecting our world today,” she said about her final goal for the project. “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.”