January 30, 2018

Tunnel of Oppression visitors experience discrimination and oppression firsthand

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Experience is the best teacher, a Latin proverb claims, and Southern Illinois University is hosting an event which will give participants the chance to experience for themselves what discrimination and oppression really feel like. 

Free and open to the general public, the Tunnel of Oppression is an interactive event. Those attending will visit a series of connected rooms, each illustrating some form of oppression, prejudice or discrimination. Themes vary from year to year, but are always a surprise. 

In previous years, people have been immersed in scenes focusing on cultural biases, drug abuse, racism, child abuse, body image, discrimination based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, and various other types of discrimination or subjugation. They see what it’s like to be laughed at or mocked, to be treated unfairly for no real reason, or even to be “invisible.” The goal is to spark understanding and conversation to bring about positive changes. 

How to attend

The 2018 Tunnel of Oppression tours will take place Feb. 26 to March 1 from 5 to 8:45 p.m. nightly on the lower level of Grinnell Hall, located at 275 E. Park Street on the SIU campus. The event traditionally draws a wide range of visitors and while it’s open to all, organizers suggest that those attending be at least 17 years old due to the intense nature of the experience. Anyone younger than 18 years of age will need a waiver, available at the event, signed by a guardian. 

To reserve a spot, call 618/536-5505, email Travis Hardwick at thardwick@housing.siu.edu, or access the reservation form online. When making a reservation, indicate the number of people attending and the three preferred dates and times. Participants must arrive 10-15 minutes prior to their reservation time to confirm and secure their spots. Tours begin every 20 minutes with the last tour starting at 7:40 p.m. 

Each tour lasts about an hour and is limited to 15-20 visitors to assure each has an optimal experience. Walk-in visitors are permitted if space allows. 

Additional information

New for the 2018 event is a “Hope Room” at the end of the Tunnel of Oppression. It’s a place where those attending can individually and also with campus and community groups, reflect on the event and discuss how they can serve as agents of change for the good. 

In addition, each tour wraps up with a short debriefing led by staff from SIU’s Counseling and psychological Services. 

The Black Togetherness Organization, a campus registered student organization, and University Housing are the Tunnel of Oppression sponsors.