At this year’s Tunnel of Oppression, students are met with something they might have experienced before: the prejudiced messages of the street preachers outside Cooper Hall.
A new addition to this year’s Tunnel, the preacher shouted at Tunnel participants, explaining how many different types of people — including homosexuals, rappers and Muslims — are going to hell.
At the end of the skit, an actor talked about the impact of the preacher’s words on those he judges.
“Is it right for us to judge him?” the actor said.
Discrimination, sexual assault and depression are all issues students and Residence Assistants (RAs) alike have dealt with on campus, and are all topics of skits performed by RAs in this year’s Tunnel.
The Tunnel, located in the Andros Center, is a diversity-awareness program aimed at showing students that discrimination is not just an idea of the past.
“It is a way to show students how different groups are still oppressed,” said Lisha Luttenton, a Cypress Suites RA who portrays a student in a wheelchair. Her skit addressed the issue of ableism, or the discrimination against people with disabilities.
Before entering the Tunnel, RA tour guides warn students that the images they will see are emotional, and that they can exit at any time.
Skits take students through a range of different social and personal situations, such as homosexuality, self-image and suicide.
Several skit topics deal with troubles that students may have in relationships, such as those encountered by multi-racial couples, the trouble faced by a couple when one decides to fight in the war in Iraq, and an incident of sexual assault — which was described by some as one of the more graphic skits.
After experiencing the Tunnel, students are brought to a room where they can discuss the images they saw.
“Does it surprise you that these are all things that happen at USF?” said McShane Murphey, the Kosove assistant resident life coordinator, to the tour group.
Students had similar reactions after the tunnel, saying they felt “sad,” “informed” and “upset.”
“It really makes you think,” said freshman Daniel Eke, a biomedical science major.
“There’s 6 billion people in the world — someone’s got to understand,” said Mylanie Sanchez, a psychology major.
On the way out, students can read a bulletin board full of anonymous “secrets,” a collection of student confessions modeled after the popular “PostSecret” Web site and books.
Valerie Kielmovitch, the resident life coordinator for Holly/Kosove and co-chair of the diversity committee in Housing and Residential Education, said the topics this year are more relevant to students, and all the skits were written by RAs.
“We wanted to make it more in-your-face,” she said.
Last year, the Tunnel of Oppression took place in Cypress E, but it was moved back to the Andros Center this year to attract more students. The location is convenient because many students eat at the Bulls Den Cafe, Kielmovitch said.
“We just happened to pass by, and we wanted to see what it was,” said freshman Alissa Giacobbe, a mechanical engineering major.
Other students had seen signs around the dorms and just wanted to see what it was about.
“I heard it was emotional,” said Eke. “I’ve been through things like this before. They were eye-opening, and I like that.”
Some students from Rollins College visited the Tunnel, and said they hoped to begin one at their school.
“I thought it would be more in-your-face interaction with the crowd,” said Drew Horsburgh, a Rollins College student. “But it was not any less effective — it was a different kind of powerful.”
The Tunnel of Oppression will continue from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and Wednesday.