Tunnel of oppression to begin Sunday

The goal of the event is to communicate to students and staff that systematic oppression is a real and ongoing issue.

Residence Life will be hosting its 2017 Tunnel of Oppression, a campus grassroots diversity program, next week in Ensminger Hall to educate WSU students Jan. 29-31.

The event originated in 1993 at Western Illinois University, and has since spread to other campuses throughout the country due to its initial success.

“It’s to allow people to experience oppression in a different light,” said Natalie Toney, program coordinator for WSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The event will cover a variety of social topics, Assistant Director of Residence Life Brandon Bracket said. The goal is to broaden others’ knowledge and understanding of resources available to them on campus, Bracket said.

As students walk through the tunnel, there will be five different rooms with different topics, he said. Participants walk through the tunnel in groups of about 20 people with a facilitator to guide them through tours, lasting about 45-50 minutes. After the tour is completed, the facilitator leads a debriefing to discuss any feelings and thoughts on the tunnel.

Because Residence Life hosts the event, freshmen and other students living in WSU dormitories may recognize their resident adviser or other members of their residence hall’s staff.

These situations are not meant to test reaction, Stimson Hall Head Sponsor Joe Lloyd said. Instead, the goal is to communicate to students and staff that systematic oppression is a real and ongoing issue.

“We are not here to form their opinion,” Lloyd said. “Our goal is to educate. I think that the impact made is unique to the individual and it is difficult to describe. More than anything, it creates a dialogue. A dialogue that has been silenced by institutions of oppressive power and behaviors.”

The promotion video for this year’s event reflected first-person accounts from WSU students of oppression through the lenses of sexism, classism, racism, transphobia and ableism.

“We highlight perspectives students themselves don’t own,” Bracket said. “When we pick the topics, there’s a variety of things we consider.”

Attendees have the opportunity to learn about topics such as race, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, violence and more, Lloyd said.

“In my opinion, I think it helps people ‘walk in someone else’s shoes,’” Lloyd said. “I myself learn something new each year. There will certainly be some elements of interactive activities. However, I find that the intent is for our students to use the information provided so that they can stimulate change.”