Tunnel of Oppression Visually Displays Social Issues

By Rick Henneman

Youngstown State University’s Office of Housing and Residence Life held their annual Tunnel of Oppression Nov. 14-18 in the President’s Suite of Kilcawley Center.

The Tunnel of Oppression is a social awareness program featuring visual displays centered on marginalized populations and social issues.

Racism, sexism and genocide were among the many social issues highlighted throughout the tunnel. YSU’s Office of Housing and Residence Life encouraged visitors to allow a certain level of discomfort while walking through the tunnel in order to gain more from the experience.

The first thing students would see as they entered the suite was a sign warning visitors of graphic images and language.

Rodger Page, Residential Education graduate assistant, felt it was necessary to include rawer and graphic images to add to the experience.

“It is important to include those images because it adds more truth to the issues.” he said, “Part of our job at the university is to treat students like adults and challenge them to see what the situation is for a lot of people, not only domestically but also internationally.”

Page explained that all students at YSU benefit from visiting the tunnel.

“Students need to challenge themselves to think about the uncomfortable truths of society,” Page said. “They need to see where they fit in with these issues, and it will help them decide how they want to see the world in the future.”

At the end of the tunnel, visitors enter the “room of hope,” where they are asked to answer the question of what they want America to be in the future.

“While the Tunnel of Oppression isn’t a direct result of any political action, politics are dominating the conversation right now,” Page said. “It’s convenient that the tunnel addresses some of the same issues that are in the spotlight today. That question gives people the opportunity to express what they want for America after learning all of this information.”

Aaron Harris, a resident assistant at Lyden House, agreed with Page, saying that graphic images were needed to impact visitors effectively.

“I think that it was very appropriate for the situation.” he said, “We like to sugarcoat things a lot today, especially when the issue is sour. Sometimes you just have to take it, soak it in and acknowledge the problems that are facing all of us.”

Andreial Tyson, a resident assistant at Kilcawley House, explained that the tunnel gives students the opportunity to educate themselves.

“The tunnel is important because not everybody understands oppression and the many things involved in it,” Tyson said. “They can get a little more educated on these issues when they walk through the tunnel, and we are here to answer any questions they have about them.”