Huddled in the center of a dark room with their eyes closed, students listened as whispers escalated to degrading shouts from those circling them. Demeaning words like “fatty,” “worthless” and many others pierced the students’ ears as they stood in the “Stereotype Room” of the Tunnel of Oppression.
Monday, many students experienced the first night of the Tunnel of Oppression. This interactive program is geared toward educating students on the many forms of modern day oppression and is hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Lumberjack Cultural Association.
“It is the largest production on campus devoted to diversity and social justice,” Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs Amanda Flores said.
The Tunnel of Oppression occupied several rooms on the second floor of the Baker Pattillo Student Center with each room dedicated to a different issue.
“When I came here my first year I was like, ‘Whoa,, this tunnel is huge in comparison to other schools, especially for the size of SFA,’” Flores said. “The fact that SFA embraces it [the Tunnel of Oppression] is a step towards creating an inclusive environment at SFA.”
This year OMA and LCA had different student organizations host each room.
“We wanted to broaden the involvement of the demographic of students that were involved in the production of it all and to give an opportunity to student organizations whose members hold demarginalized identities to address an issue that affects their community,” Flores said.
More than 120 students participated in the organization, planning and set up of the Tunnel. The Tunnel made use of monologues, media, special effects lighting, acting and simulations.
This year’s themes were sex trafficking, double standards, cyber bullying, racial profiling and the Rroma people.
“My experience through the Tunnel of Oppression was interesting,” Chani Fagan, Dallas sophomore, said. “I didn’t know that the Rroma people were thought of as less than human beings. That kind of surprised me a little. I’m more aware of the cultural issues now.”
As guides took students through each room, students witnessed skits highlighting sensitive issues both local and global.
“The first night is always tricky and filled with emotions of anticipation because we never know how the campus will receive it,” Flores said. “Some of the topics that are addressed are often unnoticed on campus so when you bring them to the forefront of people’s minds it’s a little nerve racking in terms of how they are going to accept it or be receptive to it.”’
As students walked from room to room, passive programs in the hallway continued to stir their minds. A wall of oppression highlighted the different areas of oppression people face today. Other passive programs addressed topics including abortion, domestic violence, Rroma people, Asian American oppression and body image.
At the end of the Tunnel, students sat in a “debriefing room” where they talked about what they learned from the Tunnel and filled out a survey. Galveston sophomore, Monica Mason said she learned more about stereotypes and about “not judging books by their covers.”
Mason stressed the importance of research on issues similar to the ones presented in the tunnel and said we need to “look for things beyond what we see because a lot of things happen in America that we don’t know about because we are too busy focusing on social media websites.”
This is an annual event and anyone interested in participating in next year’s Tunnel can contact the OMA or the LCA on Axes.
“The conversation doesn’t stop at the Tunnel,” Flores said. “This is a way to either continue the conversation or open it depending on the students. Our hope with this is that we open people’s minds to different issues.”