Tunnel of Oppression digs its way onto Eau Claire campus

For the 11th straight year, Making Our School an Intercultural Community will feature its Tunnel of Oppression to students on the UW-Eau Claire campus.

This nationwide simulation is designed to raise student awareness about issues that are common among today’s young adults, according to Western Illinois University, which started the event.

“Being aware of a problem is often the first step to fixing it, and oppressing groups of people is a problem,” said junior Emily Langer, president of MOSAIC.

Settings included in this year’s event at Eau Claire are body image, sexual assault, non-native English speakers and the oppression of Native Americans, just to name a few, Langer said.

Many changes have been made within the past year, one of which is its location. In previous years, the Tunnel of Oppression was held in the Council Fire Room in Davies Center. This year, the event will take place in the basement of Towers Hall. One main reason for the change is to allow students to experience numerous types of oppression.

Although manageable, Davies held only four to six recreations compared to the Towers basement, where organizers will portray 11 different activities. Each year MOSAIC gathers new ideas in hopes of making the reproduction even more interesting.

“We started with the old model and discussed different options. We kept some rooms the same and then added our new twist to it to make it our own,” Langer said.

For most students, the images portrayed recreate situations where they know someone or have personally been involved in some condition themselves. Stimulating any sort of emotion is necessary in identifying with oppression, said Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of student development and diversity and former MOSAIC faculty adviser.

“While simulated-experience programs cannot have the same impact that real-life challenges do, they can help students to begin to understand, feel discomfort and challenge old ways of thinking,” Thesing-Ritter said.

The Tunnel of Oppression’s main objective is to allow everyone to be exposed to the judgments targeted at particular individuals or groups and end criticism, Langer said.

“(Students must have) an open mind and reflect on how they can make change in their own life in regard to oppression,” she said.

With more than 350 participants in last year’s tunnel, MOSAIC is expecting an even larger turnout this year. The event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday in the Towers basement. Each tour takes about 40 minutes to complete, with a new tour beginning every 10 minutes.

After each tour, a debriefing period will take place for students to express their thoughts and concerns. All are welcome, and admission is free.