‘Tunnel’ project promotes awareness of social issues

Michael C. Lewis

Valerie Giacomo, sophomore fashion merchandising major, walks through the Tunnel of Oppression, a multi-sensory event sponsored by the College of Education that was designed to increase awareness for different types of oppression.

Credit: Andrew popik

Pictures of deformed, anorexic and bulimic women welcomed visitors into the Tunnel of Oppression as Elton John played over the loud speakers.

Beside the pictures, a mirror stood with the sign “Can you walk past without looking?” encouraging visitors to consider lookism, a belief that people change their bodies in order to conform to society.

More than 300 students, faculty and visitors walked through the tunnel yesterday in the Student Center, catching a glimpse of oppression within society. The tunnel took 15 minutes to a half hour to walk through.

The Tunnel of Oppression is a multimedia display created by Eunsook Hyun’s Administration of Multicultural Diversity in Higher Education class. It was designed to promote awareness about issues within society such as labeling, lookism, racism and wealth distribution.

“This is a 100 percent student led project,” Hyun said. “They did all the planning, organization and assessments.”

Lauren Batley, a graduate student in higher education, said their goal was to create awareness and stimulate critical thinking.

“We wanted to do something instead of talk about it,” Batley said.

Jennifer Mitchin, Batley’s classmate and a graduate student in higher education, said, “I think we really changed some attitudes of some of the people who came through.”

Hyun said the ideas were put together to represent all the students on campus.

“There is a big movement for a campus-wide diversity announcement,” Hyun said.

As guests walked through the tunnel, they saw a video commemoration to the victims of AIDS. It stood opposite a wall with labels of stereotypes such as “gay, fag, slut and male whore.” Above them stood the signs reading “Beware” and “No excuse.”

Moving along, visitors saw different signs with statistics on disabilities. For example, the percentage of freshmen with a learning disability in 1985 was 15 percent. In 1991, that figure was 25 percent.

Another sign listed more than 20 buildings on campus that are wheelchair inaccessible.

The next section of the tunnel dealt with racism. Shapes of human figures were taped on the floor, resembling the chalk outline of a dead person.

The tape figures were scribbled in purple marker with hundreds of racial slurs.

Pinned on the wall with a sign saying “Try me on” hung a Ku Klux Klan white cone-shaped hooded mask beside a black rope with a hangman’s noose tied into it.

Laughs rose within the tunnel as one male student walked around wearing the hood.

The exit corridor dealt with wealth distribution and homelessness.

The walls were covered with pictures of homeless people wearing signs begging for food or money. Boxes and newspapers lined the exit, providing a glimpse of life on the streets.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Michael C. Lewis at [email protected].