by Delaney Anderson, Staff Writer

The Department of Housing transformed the Commons Auditorium into a display of contemporary issues surrounding discrimination, power and privilege during their event titled “Tunnel of Oppression” on Monday and Tuesday.

The Tunnel of Oppression presented multiple different areas that displayed unjust and cruel situations facing many people around the world. With the walk-through display, students were able to be temporarily exposed to many issues that they may not face on a daily basis or understand.

Tunnel of Oppression is a nationwide campaign that helps draw attention to these problems around the world. It was started in 1993 on the campus of Western Illinois University. The first installments of the Tunnel were done in an effort to have participants experience forms of current oppression in a hands-on way.

The Department of Housing has presented the Tunnel of Oppression in the past but moved the display to the University Commons this year in hopes of attracting more students.

“Last year we were doing skits, and it was only for one day,” said Kaylea Morris, a resident assistant in Argo Hall. “This year it’s for two days, which I feel helps us reach a bigger crowd. Whether the people are commuting or live on campus, we reached more people with this event, and that is ultimately the goal.”

Morris worked with a team to put together the #TheBarriersWeFace display, which examined the hardships and difficulties experienced by those who are physically disabled. Morris and her team consulted with students on campus with physical disabilities, making sure they were paying attention to all of the small details regarding the oppression they experience daily.

This year, the department themed the Tunnel of Oppression “Beyond the Hashtag,” which helped explore these issues of oppression outside the image social media paints of it. Each display was titled with a hashtag in the name and was required to examine how social media has influenced the situations negatively or positively.

The Tunnel of Oppression presented a total of 16 displays, with some of the topics concerning immigration; transgender communities; school shootings; pay inequality; and the Flint Water Crisis.

In addition to the Department of Housing, UWF Active Minds assembled a display on Mental Illnesses titled #EndtheStigma. The Office of Equity and Diversity presented information about the differences between white and black drivers, titled #DrivingWhileBlack, and Kappa Delta Chi, Inc. constructed a display regarding the #OscarsSoWhite movement, which addressed the lack of marginalized communities represented in film production and awards.

One of the most powerful displays took a close look at the issue of human sex trafficking, titled #BringBackOurGirls. With a display that featured many different visual components, stories and social media commentaries, this part of the Tunnel was able to open visitors’ eyes to the growing problem in an effective way.

“Part of this event was making sure we drew attention to all of the necessary areas, which was difficult,” said Emberlee Messer, a resident assistant in Heritage Hall who helped put together the #BringBackOurGirls display. “I had a really good team, though, and we were able to find plenty of effective information. We wanted to be careful because these are sensitive topics, but everything has gone smoothly.”

It is not confirmed if the Department of Housing will present the Tunnel of Oppression again in the future, but considering the success of this year’s display, a return is likely.