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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with Tunnel of Oppression


_The Tunnel of Oppression — an interactive tour experience through the basement of Cobb Residence Hall — is designed to educate students about the types of oppression at the University.

It acts as a participatory theatre experience in which students view depictions of seven types of oppression — including learning disabilities, religion, race, body image and relationship violence
Students begin with a “privilege walk” to visualize what people have lived without, and they then view scenes and monologues depicting depression.

After the walk, participants discuss what they have seen and what they can do to stop oppression.

Staff writer Deborah Strange talked with stage director Morgan Mills, logistics co-chair Heather Robertson and adviser for acting and stage directing Ellen Hearn, about the importance of the tunnel and its legacy at UNC._

Daily Tar Heel: Why is this lesson important?

Morgan Mills: All students should be aware of the different forms of oppression that happen around us and the different levels that they happen at.

A lot of people think they’re aware or think that the tunnel of oppression doesn’t apply to them because they might not openly oppress others. There are ways that people impact others that they’re not aware of. One goal of this event is awareness.

DTH: What are ways in which students oppress others without realizing it?

MM: One good example is simply not doing anything or not saying anything when they see other people being oppressed.

DTH: This is the third year the Tunnel of Oppression has been held. What have previous reactions been like?

MM: We didn’t have much involvement the first year. Last year a lot of reactions were that, when people got through it, they feel depressed or kind of hopeless.

I think a lot of that stems from the fact that they maybe didn’t realize that so much oppression happens, and it happens here. All of this makes people feel, ‘Okay, now that all of this is going on, what can I do about it?’

At the end of the tunnel, we have a 30-minute processing session, and that’s a chance for everybody to work through their feelings with a professional staff member and to provide resources for what you can do here.

DTH: How do the actors get into the mindset of being oppressed?

MM: We had our actors preference the different roles they would like to play, and I think a lot of them chose areas of multiculturalism or topics in the tunnel that the had a personal interest, whether they identified in that way or whether it’s something that’s been close to their hearts.

DTH: How should students expect to participate in the tunnel?

MM: The audience moves around the scene. The audience participates by listening to the scenes and the monologues the characters have performed. What’s unique is a lot of the time they’re right there beside the actors. They’re kind of in the scene.

DTH: In your personal experiences, which types of oppression has the most impact?

MM: I think learning disabilities. We’ve been students for so many years. … You kind of talk about it, but you can’t really see it.

There are a lot of true stories from Carolina students used throughout. I feel like it’s powerful for students to see not only the scene, but then at the end to hear that it happens here, this happened to a Carolina student.

The room that has the most impact on me, our relationship violence room. There are two situations — one is kind of more physical violence and one is more emotional violence. I think that it’s really powerful to hear those stories and for students to realize that this is happening to your peers and that it’s happening every day.

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