Tunnel of Oppression delayed to February

By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Despite the university's continued focus on diversity this semester, with guest speakers and "UA Discusses Diversity," a popular annual Residence Life tolerance event didn't surface.

The annual Tunnel of Oppression, which is usually presented in the fall, was rescheduled to next February to make way for the Hunger Banquet, Residence Life officials said.

Brian Shimamoto, assistant director of multicultural education and advocacy for Residence Life, which sponsors both the Hunger Banquet and Tunnel of Oppression, said the Hunger Banquet moved from the spring semester to the fall, between Thanksgiving and winter break. He said around the holidays people are more aware of the hungry.

However, the banquet did not occur as scheduled and will also take place in the spring.

The Tunnel, presented Feb. 15 through 17, will be in the Kaibab-Huachuca Residence Hall basement, where it has been held in the past. Last year the Tunnel was in the Student Union Memorial Center Grand Ballroom, because construction in Park Student Union made it too difficult to hold in Kaibab, Shimamoto said.

The Tunnel of Oppression is a tour through different skits, showing the oppression faced by everyone in society. There are skits about the Holocaust, homophobia, people with disabilities, racism and sexism, among others. The skits also deal with body issues and gender identity issues.

The extra semester has given Tunnel planners time to more thoroughly research the skits they put on to inform students about such oppressions as racism, sexism, classism and ablism, said Alison Reese, a political science junior and co-coordinator of the event.

The volunteers planning the Tunnel have consulted with various student groups on campus to tell first-hand stories of oppression. They spoke with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied student group S.P.R.I.T.E., Students Promoting Respect for Individuality Through Example, about homophobia and the OASIS Center about relationship violence, said AJ Duxbury, a creative writing senior and co-coordinator of the event.

Coordinators have received requests from students to move the Tunnel back to Kaibab because of the effect it gives in such a small space.

"People who experienced it in Kaibab thought it was better than the ballroom," Shimamoto said. "They feel crammed in small spaces."

Reese said the people who usually plan the skits in the Tunnel are middle-class white students; they wanted to find first-hand accounts of oppression to make the experience more real.

"We are revising the skits and making them more interactive," Reese said.

About 10 volunteers help with the planning of the project, and about 100 students put on the skits in the Tunnel, Reese said.

Information about volunteering is being sent out to all student group e-mail distribution lists so the staff and actors will be more diverse.

"The scenes are coming straight from people living with oppression every day," Duxbury said.

The Residence Hall Association, University Activities Board and Residence Life's El Mundo are also sponsoring the event.