Tunnel of Oppression focusing on greater detail for topic

The Tunnel of Oppression is coming, and so are big changes in the way the event is run, an event official said.

Trisha Teig, chair of the Housing and Residence Life Diversity Committee, said this year’s participating organizations will have help from an expert of their choosing in the subject of their presentations for the tunnel. She said the addition of expert opinions will make the presentations more accurate and help the groups learn more about their subjects.

In addition, this year the groups will receive financial assistance from the Tunnel Planning Committee, which is sponsoring the event.

Juan Martinez, president of the university’s Gay-Straight Alliance, said that last year GSA presented a room featuring a video called “If I Could Speak Freely.” This year, the group plans to cover larger issues such as gender roles, gay marriage and hate crimes, he said.

“We just want students to be able to not only be fully aware of the things that are going on, but also be able to find a way to incorporate themselves and be able to make changes,” Martinez said.

The expert who will oversee the group’s presentation can be a person on or off campus, but GSA has not yet determined who will be the group’s expert, Martinez said. The group won’t know how much the presentation will cost until it gets closer to the event, but members are looking into applying for funding, though it is not a priority at the moment, Martinez said.

In light of Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, Martinez said this is a year when “(GSA) can make a big splash.”

An information session about the Tunnel of Oppression was held this past weekend for groups interested in participating. Teig, who brought the Tunnel of Oppression to the university last year, said more groups have expressed interest this year. She said she will be accepting room proposals until Feb. 19.

Teig said the tunnel usually offers a variety of experiences, including some interactive rooms. She said last year’s tunnel featured a room about social and economic instability. Participants were given different identities that led them to different places in the end, based on their identity’s financial circumstances. Another room communicated its message to viewers through an interpretive dance, she said.
Teig said she is excited to see the groups’ proposals for this year’s tunnel.

“We had over 600 participants last year and we do have an expectation to see that many or more again,” Teig said, adding that she encourages interested organizations and students to contact her for more information.

According to an e-mail sent by Teig, the Tunnel of Oppression began at Western Illinois University in 1993. The program allowed organizations to construct a room about a topic of its choosing to spotlight disenfranchised and exploited people around the world.

“The intent was to inform participants about oppression and give them a way to do something about it,” Teig said. She said the display is meant to be maze for visitors to wander through and experience different forms of oppression.

Among the students at the informational meeting was Brooke LeBleu, a junior theatre major and the student contact for the TCU V-Day Campaign. The TCU V-Day Campaign aims to end violence against women and holds a benefit performance of “The Vagina Monologues” every year to raise money for local and national organizations, LeBleu said. This year, the TCU V-Day Campaign plans to participate in the Tunnel of Oppression and cover women in the Congo, she said.

“We’re very excited about that because it will give us another opportunity to inform TCU about what’s going on and what we think is important about women in the world,” LeBleu said.

Teig wrote that the Tunnel of Oppression will take place April 13-15.