Tunnel of Oppression

Friday February 20, 2015

9:00am – 7:00pm
Chris Kuntzen Hall, Anderson University Center

Created in the early 1990s at Western Illinois University, Tunnel of Oppression is an interactive tool that seeks to creatively address social injustice. Participants are taken on guided tours of various exhibits that depict issues of oppression in society.  In 2009, The dCenter, Student Involvement and Leadership, and Residential Life sponsored PLU’s first Tunnel event.  Tunnel is made possible by a team of 50 student volunteers who take responsibility for creating and facilitating Tunnel exhibits.  Exhibits focus on a variety of systematic oppression, such as heterosexism, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and torture.

The goal of the PLU Tunnel of Oppression is to raise awareness of issues of privilege and oppression by presenting scenes grounded in real-world, lived experiences and to provide space for dialogue and reflection on social justice issues.

The Tunnel of Oppression planning team invites students to help shape the scenes and topics within Tunnel each year.  In this way, the Tunnel of Oppression provides student leaders with an opportunity to take action by raising awareness of social justice issues.

Tunnel promotes self-directed learning by supporting students in identification of issues they care about and strategies to effectively research and portray those issues within Tunnel.

Create a Scene

December: Building A Team and A Topic

Week of 12.1 – 12.5

  • Identify your team members and identify areas for people to focus on:
  • Team Captain(s) – meets with Staff Liaison and coordinates the team’s Tunnel scene
  • Props and Displays – coordinates purchases & creations of
  • Audio/visual needs – coordinates media components
  • Research – coordinates research related to topic
  • Develop a list of potential topics – topics must address a specific form of privilege (e.g. male privilege, Christian privilege, White privilege)
  • Begin research on the topic – a meeting with a PLU librarian, or a faculty or staff member at PLU with expertise in your topic area should be considered, as well as books, articles, and videos

J-Term: Create and Practice

Week of 1.5-1.9

  • Design the overall concept for your scene (see page 3 for more info)
  • Decide how you will communicate the topic/privilege of your scene and what you’ve learned in your research to your audience. What is the takeaway message? What story do you want to tell? Is that message clear and concise?
  • Passive – audience views static images and words pertaining to your topic
  • Mixed Media – audience sees and hears your topic
  • Interactive – audience is invited in as participant to witness a short scene; actors may speak to one another or the audience members

Scene proposal due Monday January 12th @ 5pm

Week of 1.12 – 1.16
Notification of acceptance of scene proposal Wednesday, January 14
Team Captain(s) sets up meeting with Staff Liaison to discuss final scene and feedback
Week of 1.19 – 1.23
Discuss feedback as a team
Make changes as needed

Week of 1.26 – 1.30

Begin designing the displays for your scene

Posters, making videos, scripts for actors, finding music, printing handouts for participants, etc. Remember – all scene design elements should be well-thought out and presented in a way that communicates your message to the audience in a clear and concise manner

February: Final Touches...Show Time!

Week of 2.2 – 2.6

  • Continue with the finishing touches
    • Work parties to make props, displays, etc.
    • Rehearsals for those using a script

Week of 2.9 – 2.13

  • Team Captain(s) attends a MANDATORY large group meeting on February 13, 2015 @ noon – 1pm in AUC 171 to update everyone on the details of the upcoming event
  • Copy of Scene Resources due (email to hambriaz@plu.edu) on Friday, February 13
  • Copy of Script due (email to hambriaz@plu.edu) on Friday, February 13
  • Ongoing work parties to wrap up any tasks
  • Rehearsal!


Week of 2.16 – 2.20

  • Team Captain attend a MANDATORY meeting with Staff Liaison to review status of scene and ask any last minute questions
  • Tunnel Set-Up: Thursday, February 19 noon – 6:00pm (CK Hall)
  • Docent Training and Rehearsal (at least ONE member of your team must be present): Thursday, February 19 6:00pm (CK Hall)
  • Tunnel of Oppression: Friday, February 20 9:00am – 7:00pm
  • Tunnel Tear-Down (at least TWO members of your team must be present): Friday, February 20 7:30pm (CK Hall)

Developing your scene

Every Tunnel of Oppression scene should bring an issue to life in a way that communicates a deeper understanding or awareness. Your scene should have a clear and concise message; participants should not leave your scene wondering what message your scene was attempting to convey. Participants should also leave your scene with a “take-away.” Take-away help the participant understand why this issue is important, why they should care, and why your team chose to bring this issue to light.

Option A: Passive
This option involves designing a scene that participants can walk up to, experience, and move on from on their own accord. It is structured to allow participants to engage with the material in any order and is self-directed. The emphasis here is on bringing an issue to life in a way that communicates deeper understanding or awareness. Participants should spend no longer than three minutes in a passive scene.
Example: Social Action and Leadership Wing (2009) “Black Christmas” (White Privilege)

The scene was decorated as a Christmas scene, with Christmas tress, snowflakes, and Christmas music playing. Also on display were Black Santa Clauses, Jesus, and angels. Participants were given time to look at the display and then were given some of the text below:

…Consequently, a Black Christmas is then used to bring together families and encourage positive self-esteem for African Americans. When individuals are offended by the image of a Black Jesus or a Black Christmas they are unknowingly devaluing African American’s right to present Jesus and Christmas in their own image. This dismissal creates inequality and questions the right of African Americans to celebrate their traditions as they see fit.

Considerations for a Passive Scene

  • Can participants read your printed materials? Is the font type, size, and color appropriate for more than one person to gather and read at the same time?
  • Is the take-way message clear? If not, what elements need to be added so participants do not have to guess and make assumptions as to your message?

Option B: Mixed Media
This option offers you the chance to draw from media resources to supplement your scene. It involves a strategy for welcoming, gaining the attention of, and presenting to participants in a more linear order. Mixed media scenes allow your team to use media (YouTube clips, news reports, movies, commercials, recordings, etc.) as a part of the story of the scene. The emphasis is on either a) the media itself to offer critique or f) uses media as part of the story you seek to communicate. Participants should spend no longer than four minutes in a mixed media scene.

Example: Students for Peace (2010) “Fighting Wars at Home vs. Abroad” (Citizenship Privilege)
Two projectors showed images of war (soldiers, civilians, bombings, etc.) in The United States and Afghanistan simultaneously. The scene attempted to show how war is experienced differently by the two countries and the differences in how the media portrays war in both countries.

Considerations for a Mixed Media Scene

  • If the media is on a loop, can participants watch/listen anywhere in the cycle or does the media have to be listened to in its entirety from the beginning?
  • How loud is the media? Will it be distracting to participants in other scenes?
  • If the media is a video, is the screen large enough for 10-15 people to watch in the scene?
  • Are there other elements in your scene besides the media? If not, does the media alone convey your message?
  • Is the take-way message clear? If not, what elements need to be added so participants do not have to guess and make assumptions as to your message?

Option C: Interactive/Theatrical
This option invites participants to be part of the scene itself. This active participation may include filling out a form or addressing the audience through dialogue in a skit. The scene should be designed to engage and involve participants without shocking them or putting any one person on the spot. Interactive/theatrical scenes allow your team to create an environment that offers participants a small glimpse of what life is like for certain individuals in our society. The emphasis here is to create an environment that offers participants a small glimpse of what life is like for certain individuals in our society. Participants should spend no longer than five minutes in an interactive/theatrical scene.
Example: Hong International Hall and The Diversity Center (2009) (Language Privilege)

The Docent led participants into the scene. Sitting at a table were two students (actors). The actors wanted the participants to fill out an application in another language (Spanish, German, Chinese, Norwegian) and spoke this language to the participants. When the participants didn’t understand, the actors would speak louder, or slower, or begin to get agitated.

Considerations for an Interactive/Theatrical Scene

  • Is the script for actors in the scene clear? Are team members willing and able to rehearse the scene before the day of Tunnel of Oppression?
  • Are you able to schedule team members to be present in the scene throughout the entirety of Tunnel (8:30am-7:45pm)?
  • Is the take-way message clear? If not, what elements need to be added so participants do not have to guess and make assumptions as to your message?

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.