February 10, 2012

Tunnel of Oppression designed to raise awareness

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The sixth annual Tunnel of Oppression at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is set for Feb. 20-23.

Visitors will tour a series of rooms, each with a unique focus, giving them a first-hand encounter with an oppressive force or emotion.  The event takes place each day from 5 to 9 p.m. in the lower level of Grinnell Hall, 275 E. Park St., near Mae Smith tower. 

During the half-hour trip, visitors will explore more than a dozen themes including race, gender, body image, homophobia, class, physical ability, religion and more.  Volunteers from registered student organizations and community groups create the multi-themed tunnel rooms, giving visitors an interactive experience like none other. 

“The Tunnel of Oppression transcends the human experience.  It enables you to experience, even for just a few minutes, the prejudices and oppressions that still exist today and how very powerful they are.  Underground human auctions still take place, even in America.  People still suffer unjustly.  Tunnel visitors will see what it’s like to be treated unfairly, to be mocked and laughed at.  Our hope is that this experience enhances understanding and leads to discussion that brings about positive change.  Raising awareness is a good step toward making a difference,” said Alfred Jackson, education and outreach coordinator for University Housing. 

Jackson said the event is also a good opportunity for participating students to show what they’ve learned, or what they think they’ve learned, as they create the Tunnel of Oppression.

There is no cost to attend and all are welcome.  However, due to the intense nature of the program, it is open only to those who are age 17 or older.

Tours start every half hour with the final tour each evening kicking off at 8:30.  There is a limit of 20 people per tour and reservations usually go very quickly.  Jackson said everyone is welcome but organizers strongly encourage those who have never visited the Tunnel of Oppression to do so.  The eye-opening encounter typically draws people from a wide area, including other universities, Jackson said.

After each tour, participants will have the opportunity to participate in a debriefing with staff from the SIU Carbondale Wellness Center and Counseling Center as well as the Carbondale Women’s Center.

To reserve a spot, e-mail your top three choices of dates and times to Laura Becerra at lbecerra@siu.edu or call 618/536-2054.  Be sure to arrive at least 10 minutes before your scheduled tour.  Demand is so strong for spots that organizers fill them all with those present on site 10 minutes before tours depart.

University Housing and the Black Togetherness Organization sponsor the Tunnel of Oppression.