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Tunnel of oppression returns to Brockport

By Kristen Fluhler
On February 26, 2013

  • The Tunnel of Oppression, an interactive event in which students are led through a series of rooms representing privilege and oppression in today’s society, will be returning to campus Feb. 28 and March 1. File photo 2012

The Tunnel of Oppression, an interactive, educational presentation of modern day social injustices, will be returning to the College at Brockport Feb. 28 and March 1.

Students who attend will walk through a series of rooms within the tunnel, led by a tour guide. Each room represents a different issue on power struggle, privilege and oppression that students and community members face every day.

The rooms are designed to be completely different from one another. It is done this way because students take in and process information differently. In doing this, the committee said it is trying to ensure students are able to relate to as many rooms as possible with the different presentations.

After students visit the first series of rooms, which cover different types of oppression like lookism (positive stereotypes given to physically attractive people), ableism (discriminating against people with disabilities), mental health stigma, child soldiers and more, students will reach the Hope Room. 

The Hope Room is where students have an opportunity to debrief and talk to licensed counselors. It is also where students can have small group discussions to express their reactions to the different issues presented. It's where many students begin thinking of different ways to solve the social injustices.

The tunnel is designed for students to experience the different types of oppression and evoke an emotional reaction they can talk about.

The Tunnel of Oppression was so well received last year that students asked members of the original planning committee if it was returning and if they could contribute. 

The co-chairs of the Tunnel of Oppression's planning committee, Jessica Newby and Sara Kelly, said they are both looking forward to the event. 

"This has been a 10-month planning process," Newby said. "We have 12 professional staff members and around 30 students, all of whom go to different departments and clubs around the school to get them involved. I'm excited to see it all come together."

The event is almost completely student run. 

"It is almost always student run and student driven," Kelly said. "Students pick the topics represented in each of the rooms and choose how they want those topics to be presented. We have so many inspiring students and I think sometimes that they can be underestimated. It's great to see them participate and be passionate about this."

Kim Piatt, who is heavily involved with the Leadership Development Program (LDP), is a faculty member who is also on the Tunnel of Oppression planning committee. 

Piatt said she also felt the students involved gave her a different perspective on the event. 

"The experiences that [the students] have and the stories they share with all of us are so powerful," Piatt said. "We're all exposed to these issues, but hearing it from another person and how it has affected them has made me even more dedicated to what I do."

Last year the event had a turnout of almost 300 people and it is expected there will be a higher number of students attending this year.

Different groups on campus that cover these sensitive issues daily, such as the LDP, African American studies groups and women and gender studies classes, were invited to the event. All students, faculty and community members are also invited to the event. 

"The biggest part of this program is social change," Piatt said. "It's almost like a sampling of different ways that you can make a change in the world." 

Piatt continued speaking on the topic in relation to the Leadership Development Program. 

"A leader has a positive impact but it is even more impacting when it is something that the leader is passionate about," Piat said. "That's what I want students in the LDP to get out of this. Social injustice is at the forefront of our community and we want the students to go out and do something about it."

The main purpose of the Tunnel of Oppression is to start conversations about power, privilege and oppression and to inspire students to take action against it.

 "Our biggest lesson we want people to take away is that oppression still happens," Newby said. "People don't realize that sometimes. We want people to learn ways on how to act about what they're experiencing."

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