By John Maltempo
Mary Washington hosted its first “Tunnel of Oppression” event March 29 and 30, sponsored by the Academic Affairs Council (AAC).
The Tunnel of Oppression is a series of multi-sensory exhibits meant to bring awareness to a particular cause or issue related to oppression in some form. The program has been implemented on many college campuses throughout the country.
The event was held in eight rooms in Combs Hall, and a different UMW club ran each room. The room used by the James Farmer Multicultural Center was set up to discuss racial discrimination in court cases.
The AAC set up its own room with hanging white sheets of paper surrounding the occupants, and participants listened to audio recordings of different views on the idea of white privilege.
One room, set up by the Animal Rights Club, used four television screens to show scenes of graphic animal abuse caught on tape.
Alpha Mu Sigma, the new fraternity on campus, hosted a room focusing on women in the workplace. This room was organized so that men satt in comfortable chairs and were asked questions about women in the workplace, while the women sat at computers. If the men did not know the answer to a question posed to them, the women were told to find it.
The Tunnel of Oppression is planned to occur again next year and Alpha Mu Sigma has been announced as the sponsor. Sophomore, co-founder and Vice President of the fraternity Heather Jones responded to the decision.
“I think some people have preconceptions about Alpha Mu and this is yet another way for us to show how invested we are in the Mary Washington Community,” Jones said.
Students for a Democratic Society used their room to create an interactive experience that addressed oppression in many forms. Members created a walk through game of life, complete with class, racial, and sexual discrimination.
People for the Rights of Individuals of Sexual Minorities had a gender identity room where one could not say any gender specific terms when answering questions asked by the leaders of the room.
The most visually striking room, dark and only lit with black light, was from Guerilla Art Liberation Lives. In it there were several desks each with a black light shining on a white cutout of an offensive term.
The final club participant was the Economic Development Club discussing the Copenhagen Consensus. Each member was tied down to illustrate the restraints on the economic growth of a country.
Senior Kate Leboeuf is an AAC member and helped put on the Tunnel of Oppression program after attending one at Berkeley two years ago.
“I loved the idea and thought that it would be a great program for Mary Washington, especially considering some of the bad press we get in the way of diversity,” Leboeuf said.