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A ton of hate in a Tunnel of Oppression

Students were bombarded with racial slurs and hate-filled language last night at the Cypress Community Building. But that’s why they were there. They went to see the Tunnel of Oppression, a social commentary performance put on by FACES (Facilitating Awareness in our Community through Education and Support) and Residence Life.

The Tunnel was an effort to raise awareness of oppression.

“We want to raise awareness on campus about different kinds of oppression on campus and in our community,” said William Evans, the Cypress area coordinator and chairperson for FACES.

Students who go through the Tunnel of Oppression watch skits and are barraged with imagery intended to provoke emotion. The tunnel shows oppression in everyday life and highlights issues such as homophobia, racism, weight-based discrimination, ethnocentrism and anti-Semitism.

“Some people don’t understand that there is prejudice in this world,” said freshman Leah Pope, a volunteer at the Tunnel. “And there is more than just prejudice against different races, and this is a good way to expose (people) to that.”

This is the second year the Tunnel is at USF.

“We decided to do it again because the responses we got last year were very positive,” Evans said.

He expects the turnout to be around 400 people for all three days, twice as many as last year.

Parts of the tunnel may be considered offensive. A student walking by while the event was being set up was deeply offended because she did not know about the Tunnel and overheard lines from a skit.

Outside of the Cypress Community Building, students are met first with sidewalk chalking of obscenities and slurs. The chalking leads to the entrance of the “tunnel” — actually a collection of rooms in which performers act out different skits.

The skits show examples of oppression, regardless of whether the characters know it. They also try to help people understand how much hurt oppression causes.

The tour ends with a discussion of what visitors witnessed and how it relates to everyday life.

The responses are mixed as students leave.

“Some people looked really somber and some looked really scared,” said freshman Rebecca Jagannath, a tour guide. “Then there were some people who didn’t take it seriously and thought it was one big joke.”

For those who did take it seriously, the Tunnel left an impression.

“It was really enlightening,” said freshman Dominique Smith.

“I don’t think people realize how easily words can hurt,” said freshman Carmen Quintera.

The Tunnel is open to guests from 6 to 9 tonight and Wednesday, and the tour lasts 15 to 30 minutes. The Cypress Community Building is behind Cypress Hall, located on the corner of Holly and Maple drives.