Social oppression is defined as “a concept that describes a relationship of dominance and subordination between categories of people in which one benefits from the systematic abuse, exploitation, and injustice directed toward the other,” according to sociology.about.com.
Seeing a demand from IUPUI students, Social Justice Education and Housing and Residence Life put on the first “Tunnel of Oppression” in the IUPUI Campus Center in the spring semester 2014. It is designed to highlight social oppression in our world today so that awareness spreads. Amanda Bonilla The Assistant Director of Social Justice Education, helped start the program two years ago.
“The Tunnel of Oppression” at IUPUI began Spring 2014 when a resident assistant from Housing and Residence Life approached me and expressed their desire to have a large-scale program at IUPUI that would raise awareness of social issues in a way that would have a lasting impact and highlight several different issues at the same time,” Bonilla said. “I had done the Tunnel of Oppression at other institutions and thought it would be the perfect experiential program to bring to IUPUI.”
The tunnel shows various forms of injustice through video, live skits, and monologues. After tour guides lead participants through each room, the hosts of the event lead discussions for participants to process the issues.
“After they go through the Tunnel, staff lead a discussion to process the experience and there are resources from community organizations and campus groups available for participants to learn more about how to get involved beyond the Tunnel,” Bonilla said.
Madison Poston, a junior studying event planning, has volunteered for the Tunnel of Oppression for the past two years. In her freshman year, she volunteered to help set up the event with she was a tour guide during her sophomore year, leading participants through each scenario with a script explaining each scene.
“I think it is important for students to get a better understanding of how real these issues are and that they do happen to people,” Poston said. “Seeing and hearing them acted out had a big impact.”
Kendal Lang, a junior studying health and rehabilitation sciences, experienced the Tunnel for the first time in the spring of 2015.
“I really liked how we got different experiences and saw the victims' point of view,” Lang said. “I always had an idea of how they were treated and how they felt but I never could understand because I never spent a day in their shoes.”
According to Bonilla, the entire event runs on volunteers. Students serve as tour guides, actors and help with behind the scenes work. Actors meet with staff from Social Justice Education to rehearse their parts so that they can convey specific meaning in their roles.
“Planning for Tunnel takes place a year in advance starting with determining dates and themes, then spending a majority of the planning process developing each room scenario including the scripts, props, and actors,” Bonilla said. “The Tunnel consist of six different rooms or scenarios all inspired by true stories and events so you can imagine it is quiet an involved process.”
Many of the students that volunteer for the Tunnel have experienced these issues themselves, according to Bonilla. So, the goal is to spread awareness in order that other people would get involved to make positive change for IUPUI and the rest of society.
Topics change from year to year based off of responses from the previous years participants as well as what is happening in in society currently. The topics are given to Social Justice Scholars at IUPUI and are developed into specific scenes to address each issue.
This year’s topics include: racism, police brutality, human trafficking, transgender issues, war and imperialism and socio-economic inequality. The event will be held on Tuesday, February 23 from 1 p.m. 8 p.m. and Wednesday, February 24 from 9 a.m. 2 p.m. Sessions run every 30 minutes and the event is free to IUPUI students and staff.
“The main goal for the Tunnel is for students and the campus to become aware of the various social justice issues in today’s society,” Bonilla said.