Exhibit highlights examples of hate and discrimination
Students’ eyes widen as they walk across Hallett Hall’s fourth-floor classroom on Sept. 26-29 during the third annual Tunnel of Oppression hosted by the Hallett Diversity Program.
The walls were made a uniform black color and then covered in memorabilia focusing on human oppression. The museum-like event was divided into sections featuring oppressive quotes, comments, pictures, news articles, stories and posters on transphobia, racism, body image, homophobia, sexism and other controversial topics. The memorabilia covered the wall entirely from the ceiling to the floor giving the room a tunnel-like effect.
“We want people to come by and see why diversity is such an issue,” said diversity mentor Jennifer Tilden, a junior sociology major. “There is so much hate and sometimes people just don’t see it. We just want to help people see how underrepresented people are still being pushed in society.”
Tilden said the tunnel took about a week to put together, but Diversity Program members have been doing research for the content in the exhibits since last year.
Relevant statistics include: “Only 20 percent of married couples share domestic responsibilities” and “60 percent of the 7,947 hate crimes in 1995 were motivated by race.” These are meant to highlight each section and provoke more thought.
Program coordinator Richard Muniz, a senior political science major, said this is the first year the program is open to the campus community. Usually it’s only open to other resident advisors in other buildings
“A lot of universities do (the Tunnel of Oppression) and they do it on a large scale,” Muniz said.
The entire student affairs committees of schools often take part in the event. The Hallett Diversity Program is trying to increase the scale of their Tunnel of Oppression but is starting small.
“We do this at the beginning of every year. It’s a way of starting up programs for the hall and raising discussion and awareness and getting people to have that kind of discussion,” Muniz said.
There is a special section of the tunnel called “Campus BMIs” where oppressive sayings and comments written and posted all around the CU campus are featured. Graffiti from the Norlin Library bathroom stalls were featured uncut and unedited.
“For most of the people this is the part of the tunnel they really enjoy. It hits home for them because they know a lot of oppression happens worldwide and in this country but they don’t actually see that it happens a lot on this campus,” said Muniz. “We do try to connect it back to home.”
The newest feature to the tunnel this year was the bathroom lit up by a black light with derogatory names like “slut” or “chink” written all over furniture with paint.
After completing the exhibits, students have the option to make comments on posters about emotions and things that can now be done to change the face of oppression.
Some commments included: “Astounded by the sheer amount of discrimination, I never took into account a lot of these things.”
“Disgust in humanity,” was another comment that appeared.
“It’s pretty sad,” said Michael Arnsberg, a freshman integrative physiology major. “It also makes me feel kind of angry.”
The room is quiet for students to take all of the content in. There are no signs enforcing the silence, but regardless, chatting is held to a minimum. Reflection and concentration are prominent.
“As I walk through the tunnel, I think about how the people of CU need to start respecting their own school, property and each other and stop writing these derogatory and racist comments on the walls,” said Amanda Busnardo, a sophomore from the Denver School of Nursing who visited the Tunnel of Oppression.
Although there is no counseling offered at the event, the diversity staff at the event will direct students in need to mentors and counselors. There are also weekly diversity programs available with movies, speakers, and a variety of programs to bring awareness to issues, Tilden said.
“The point is not actually to get people to start revolutions,” said Muniz.
They want people to think about and be “aware of these issues and stop thinking solely about themselves but also about the lessons we’ll be trying to teach all year long,” Muniz said.