Learning through a different lens

by Dylan Ruffra

Over the past six months I have been a part of the Tunnel of Oppression committee on my campus. This is an event that many other colleges across the United States have put on their campus to bring awareness to the different oppression college students are going through. How it works is that there are few booths/ rooms in a close proximity that students go through.  As students are walking to the different booths/rooms it is supposed to simulate a tunnel hence the name of the event Tunnel of Oppression. Some of the different types of oppression that our tunnel addressed were homelessness, mental health, LGBQT+, and women’s empowerment. It was amazing to see all the students come out this event and see their perspective and reflection.
Since I work in Housing and Residence Life I and another colleague sponsored the booth that simulated homelessness. On college campuses I think that this is one of the most unrecognized student populations. May people probably do not think about where their classmates are living. While being homeless does mean not having a home, we tried to get across that these have to worry about other things as well. These students have to think about where they can get their next meal, are going to have a warm shower and even where they can get clothes. To help symbolize homelessness we had two wooden pallets that were covered with cardboard, then layered with newspapers and some torn up blankets on top. Then around our booth we laid different plastic bags to symbolize trash and different reflection questions to get students thinking.
Once the students, had gone through the tunnel there were two different ways we had them reflect on what they had learn. We had a table that had different nonprofit organizations brochure from our city that students could pick up and learn about the various resources. We wanted students to have an outlet to put their energy once they have learned the different student populations. With the information about these organizations, there were also volunteer signup sheets, so they could help the organization as well. The other way we had students reflect is by writing impactful messages. We had a reflection table at the end of our tunnel where students could write supporting notes. The table was covered with two long sheets of butcher block paper where they could tear through the top piece and reflect on the second piece. This was to symbolize tearing through barriers and showing support for others.  Many students were in support of the different populations they learned about.
Being on this committee was an impactful experience to see what the students took away from this event.  It was exciting that as students were going through the tunnel they were able to critically think about oppression that others have. Students began to learn how they could advocate for others and their community.  I always enjoy when students can take a moment and help their peers around them.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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