Tangled in stained sheets, a young woman, curled into a ball, clutches her head and quietly sobs. Blood dots the sheet around her. Another girl, bound and gagged, silently pleads with you to accept her.
These dramatic scenes and others, depicting the realities of sexual assault, homophobic behavior and eight other forms of oppression, played out in this year’s Tunnel of Oppression.
An educational experience designed to remind participants of the acts of oppression occurring in today’s society, the Tunnel is constructed in the UC Ballrooms each year out of dark curtains, multimedia props and other materials.
Participants were invited this past week to take a tour through all 10 rooms, a reflection wall and a discussion room. Themes presented included education, classism, racism and religion.
“It’s not just going through the tours. Of course Tunnel is really meant to be a shock factor and get you to understand oppression and understand that oppression still exists,” said Haley Gordon, chair of Tunnel of Oppression. “People are always at rage about things that are happening across the world but don’t realize that things are happening in their backyard. This year that’s something we really wanted to focus on.”
Students were seen with tears pouring from their eyes, reacting to each room and connecting with the issues presented. The reflection wall, perhaps the most influential of all rooms, served as a resource for participants to express their thoughts. On the wall, vows were made to be more cautious of judging others or unintentionally making fun of different cultures.
A new theme, political oppression, was the centerpiece for an entirely new room designed by CAUSA, students for a free Cuba, and Amnesty International.
“Since our organization is Cuban there was a lot of Cuban stuff in there, but we tried to make sure that we focus on international human rights as a whole,” said Matthew Robayna, a member of CAUSA. “We partnered with Amnesty so they brought more general international flair to their part. It covered a little bit of everywhere”.
Kids and Culture, SpectrUM, Amnesty International, CAUSA and Best Buddies were among other student organizations responsible for designing specific rooms.
“This year we’re actually focusing more on bullying and words, phrases and comments that people use to hurt our population,” said Shelby Juarez, treasurer of SpectrUM, the organization in charge of creating the LGBTQ issues room. “We also wanted to show how they hurt, that we’re also human and that they don’t really see the internal dialogue that those comments produce within us.”
Individual groups of students, however, met at information sessions prior to Tunnel and worked on rooms as well.
“Having a couple of individuals that are really passionate about an issue just run a room has really worked out well,” Gordon said.
Jonathan Borge may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.