February 20, 2008

Tunnel of Oppression event set for Feb. 25-28

by Eric Welch

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Discrimination, violence, prejudice and hatred all describe the twisted and dark side of humanity that can be found in every society. However, many people never see or feel the impact of these forces, which is why students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will attempt to take off the blinders to create a unique and first-hand eye opener for Southern Illinoisans.

The Tunnel of Oppression, a tangible and experiential exhibit of oppressive forces in modern history, will run from 5 to 9 p.m. in the lower level of Grinnell Hall Feb. 25-28. It will be free and open to the public. Organizers hope that the event will create more widespread awareness and understanding of the various types of oppression and their impact on individuals and culture.

"This is an effort to portray some of the oppressive groups and oppressive acts to make people think outside the box," said Alfred Jackson, assistant director of University Housing Residence Life for retention and outreach.

The tunnel will feature multiple themed rooms, each created by volunteers from registered student organizations. Along the approximately 30-minute tour, tunnel-goers will not only see images of oppression and hatred, but will be drawn into the exhibit through experiences involving the senses and active participation. Jackson said that by doing this, he hopes that people can feel, at least for a few moments, the effects of oppression; for example, what it's like to be treated unfairly or be mocked and laughed at.

The tunnel is not limited to a single topic and will include issues such as race, gender, body image, homophobia, class, ability and physical ability. Without giving away this year's main issues, Jackson credited students with making the decisions of what the tunnel will include.

"This is all student-run," Jackson said. "This is for students to show what they perceive about oppression and several RSO groups have volunteered to be active in it."

Jackson said last year's tunnel included an experience of segregation in a 1915 classroom, a video on AIDS in Africa, a homosexual dating scenario and a scene aiming to dispel myths about the homeless. At the end of the tunnel, counselors met with the tour groups to debrief, and the participants had the chance to give feedback and discuss what they saw and felt. Jackson said this year will be similar but with different themes and rooms.

The tunnel is sponsored by University Housing, the Social Justice Committee and the Black Togetherness Organization. Tours will run every half hour and are limited to 15 people. To reserve a timeslot, e-mail three possible times to ajackson@siu.edu.