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Oppression issues seen in tunnel

Taylor House/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Physiology freshman Jessica LaMar recites a true story of abuse in one of the rooms of the Tunnel of Oppression last night in Kaibab-Huachuca Residence Hall.
By Ariel Serafin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
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“Nigger,” “faggot” and “cunt” were some of the identities written on nametags that students wore around their necks as they were marched through the Tunnel of Oppression last night.

The tunnel event, which is in its eighth year at the UA, is an interactive tour that leads visitors through themed rooms depicting instances of abuse, hate crime and prejudice throughout history.

As students entered the basement of Kaibab-Huachuca Residence Hall they were violently greeted by a swarm of actors waving protest signs and screaming racist chants like “Hell no, you must go back to Mexico.”

As they approached the doorway, they were shown written directions on where to stand. But there was one twist: The writing, which was intended to portray the struggles of mental disability, was written backward and was practically illegible.

Students who were unable to read the directions quickly enough were reprimanded with frustrated screams like “You retards! What’s wrong with you?”

Once visitors managed to find their way to the courtyard, they read descriptions of hate crimes attached to glowing luminaries. As the students read the descriptions, images of people who were lynched, and sexually provocative images of women were projected onto large screens in the background.

The rooms, which had themes like body image, oppression of homosexuals and genocide, were manned by tour guides and actors who told their fictional personal stories or angrily herded visitors to their next location.

The harsh treatment and testimonies are meant to have an impact on the visitors’ perceptions of what prejudice and oppression really feel like.

“You learn about these things in class, but when you go through a situation like this it makes you far more aware of what you’re dealing with,” said Adam Schulgasser, an undeclared freshman.

Though Schulgasser said he only endured 20 minutes of the tunnel, it opened his eyes to the intensity and the anger that oppressed people experience.

Natalie Geist, an undeclared freshman, said the rage of the actors during the presentation helped her understand how oppressed people throughout history had been subjugated.

Geist said when she read in history books about how Holocaust victims voluntarily entered the gas chamber, she couldn’t imagine what could influence them to do it.

“(Before I wondered,) ‘why did they go in, how did that happen?’” Geist said.

Jackie Reaume, a pre-communication freshman, said she was startled by her own reaction to her name tag reading, “gimp” and the directions given to her that she must ride in a wheelchair for a portion of the presentation.

“I felt ashamed of myself,” Reaume said. “I caught myself being embarrassed, and I couldn’t believe I felt that way.”

And that’s exactly the point of the presentation, said Amanda Kraus, community director for Residence Life and coordinator of the tunnel.

“Everyday things like this are going on,” Kraus said. “All of these little things play into a larger system of oppression.”

Because of the positive feedback and high attendance numbers, Kraus said the tunnel has become a yearly event and usually attracts about 1,000 people throughout its three-night span.

The Tunnel of Oppression will run again tonight and tomorrow night from 6 to 9 in Kaibab-Huachuca.

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