Graham Building

East Carolina University will host the Tunnel of Oppression event at the Main Campus Student Center Ballrooms tonight from 5 to 7 where students can experience a powerful and inspiring opportunity with people sharing experiences and realities of oppression in today’s society.

By being involved with Campus Living, Sydney Roig, hall coordinator of Gateway West Hall, gets to meet a variety of students who have had a variety of different experiences either with oppression or discrimination.

Campus living a unique job experience because hall coordinators live in the residence halls that they supervise. It helps get to know the community more and better support the students within that community, according to Roig.

“The Tunnel of Oppression event is a theatrical, kind of inversive experience that participants will go through and we have actors who are portraying themes of discrimination or oppression within our society to highlight the experiences of marginalized groups who face these oppressive behaviors on a daily basis,” Roig said.

Campus Living is working alongside a variety of teams for this event with the Social Justice Education Team (SJET), being one of them. SJET is composed of coordinators and other professionals on campus who focus on social justice initiatives throughout the year, according to Roig.

Roig said when participants first arrive, they will come to a cultural museum where they can interact with the host organizations. Then, either a scene, a video, or a past experience will be shown when students go through the rooms that show what someone would go through when they experience discrimination or oppression.

“There will be nine scenes throughout the tunnel; intimate partner violence, race, immigration, socioeconomic status and homelessness, LGBTQ, body image, ability, religion and mental health,” Roig said.

When participants walk out, there’s a room to debrief and process the Tunnel of Oppression. The host organizations are trying to make the event a beneficial experience, Roig said.

The Tunnel of Oppression is a bi-annual event at ECU, so the last one took place two years ago and this event initially originated in the early 1990s. It is a nationally held event in which a variety of college campuses participate in. It’s not necessarily on the same day, but it is a very big scaled event that impacts college communities across the country, Roig said.

The theme of highlighting issues of oppression is constant at ECU, but the videos, scripts and scenarios that are performed are different each time this event is being held. A variety of students across campus share their experiences that are relevant in that year and are included to the Tunnel of Oppression, Roig said.

According to Roig, Campus living is additionally partnering with a variety of offices on campus including The Center for Counseling and Student Development, Dr. Peel LGBTQ Center, Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, The Women and Gender Office, Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, Disability Support Services and the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.

“Each of those offices kind of took part in the issues, the nine scenes, and created a script for that room. For example, intimate partner violence, the script was created by the WGO’s professional and student staff for that one room. Each of these offices are responsible for one of the rooms participants will walk through,” Roig said.

The Office of Equity and Diversity will have a table at the cultural museum, but they will not have a room in the tunnel, Roig said.

All of these individual offices have a ton of different programs throughout the year related to social justice. Campus living combined with them to create the Tunnel of Oppression, but they each have their own programs that are listed on their respective websites, Roig said.

They come together for events like the Tunnel of Oppression, Pledge Purple Week and Martin Luther King week, but the Tunnel of Oppression is one of the larger-scale events they partake in, Roig said.

Roig said Campus Living marketed this event across campus and will be open to all students, faculty and staff. Anyone who wants to participate in and walk through the tunnel is able to because they believe the information they are presenting can have a great impact on anybody in the community, she said.

“The Tunnel of Oppression will help participants visualize, identify with other groups of people and help better understand their experiences that they normally aren’t aware of. It highlights what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes and raises awareness about how oppression impacts different marginalized groups across campus,” Roig said.

Roig said she’s passionate about this because she feels that every person on campus should feel like they belong here. If everybody becomes a little more aware of what people are going through in the community, then people are able to further support, accept and celebrate one another, she said.

Roig is hoping to enlighten those about other’s experiences, help them look at their own experiences, show them how they can positively impact other students. She said she wants to educate students and staff, support and respect one another better.

“As a community we are able to move forward better, be more inclusive and support social justice for all students,” Roig said.

Haes Shake, a freshman psychology major, plans on attending with his friend, Brian Wolstenholme, a freshman marketing major. Shake has moved all across the country for a lot of his life and moving from the west coast to the east coast was definitely a culture shock for him, Shake said.

Shake said he is excited to see the performances the different offices have written. He said he’s additionally excited about being better informed about the oppressive behaviors people constantly face that others aren’t necessarily aware of, Shake said.

“The Tunnel of Oppression is really important because it will help open the eyes of people on campus who sometimes don’t realize other people’s issues and their privilege and how blessed they are to have the advantages they have that without even realizing it. There are so many things that they don’t even understand that most other people don’t have,” Shake said.

Shake wants to make a change in the community with Wolstenholme and his other friends.

Wolstenholme said he has seen a difference in how people are treated based on their expression, socioeconomic status and oppression occurs in places you don’t even consider, Wolstenholme said.

“I am passionate about this and The Tunnel of Oppression will be important to ECU because everybody deserves to be treated equally and we need to come together as a community to be better informed, celebrate each other together, and we need to better support each other,'' Wolstenholme said.

It’s a fun way to get involved with the community and be more inclusive, Wolstenholme said. Individuals experience oppression constantly and there are many ways to better support these people.

Wolstenholme said he’s most looking forward to the acted out scenes because he feels like they’re going to be fun and intriguing but additionally very informative to keep the audience engaged and also teach them valuable information they’ll definitely need for today’s society.

“Students are impacted by oppression here on campus and sometimes we don’t even know about it, but we should and I’m excited to see what these organizations have planned,” Wolstenholme said.

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