Tunnels of Oppression encourages self-reflection, awareness

Tim Tarkelly and Soji Cole, both graduates in dramatic theatre, participate in the interactive portion of the Tunnel of Oppression event at the Student Union on November 12, 2014. (Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

Tunnels of Oppression was hosted Wednesday night in the K-State Student Union and touched on a number of heavy-hitting topics.

The purpose of the event was to give attendees the opportunity to experience firsthand not only what it’s like to be oppressed, but what constitutes subconscious oppression and the proper way to address these issues.

Attendees were taken through three different rooms or “tunnels.” The first room was the introduction to the experience, led by volunteer and residence life coordinator Ronnell DuBose. DuBose explained each tunnel and opened up with an introductory activity where he handed out cards to participants; whatever was on the card represented the participants place in life — 2 being the lowest, Ace being the highest.

The idea of the game was to put participants in someone else’s shoes. Students with low numbers were shunned by higher numbers as outcasts.

“The first room is a passive place, you’ll see things that you’ll relate with and you’ll see things you may not relate with,” DuBose said.

The objective of that first room was to create awareness and to educate attendees on the proper way to handle those issues. The passive room tackled issues that many may not know are forms of oppression, like microaggression.

Microaggression reflects the active manifestations of oppressive world views that create, foster and enforce marginalization.

The passive room explored themes of oppression like disability discrimination, proper and improper terminology, fitspiration and sexual abuse.

One visual that affected attendees was K-State alumna Kristen Tebow’s human trafficking story. Tebow was just a few weeks into her freshmen year at K-State when a friend drugged her and orchestrated her gang rape.

“The room with all the displays is what rocked me,” John Deterding, senior in electrical engineering, said. “Just knowing that a friend could do that to you— I mean that’s really messed up.”

Tebow’s story taught Deterding that he should be more cautious of the people he calls friends.

“Watching that story, I just can’t imagine having to go through that and how much that must affect your ability to trust people,” Deterding said.

The passive room was followed by a more active room where counselors incorporated hands on group activities to tackle themes like prejudice, status, hierarchy, body image, bullying and oppression.

The event concluded with a group discussion where attendees discussed how they were affected and what stuck out the most.

Philip Gayle, professor of economics, was invited to the event by a friend and said the biggest thing that stuck out for him was learning of the disparity between the 1 in 5 women in college who are sexually abused compared to the 1 in 60 men in the same situation.

“I knew women were more sexually abused than men, but I didn’t know by how much,” Gayle said.

For Gayle, a lot of information that was presented consisted of things that you’d just never come across,unless you experienced the event.

“I think it’s really a useful thing for people to do of all races and age groups, because it’s just very informative about how people view each other and what they think of each other’s environments,” Gayle said.