January 18, 2012
12-15

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

VSU Hopes To Encourage Social Change, Empower Civil Action ThroughThe Tunnel

VALDOSTA -- From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24, Valdosta State University will offer The Tunnel, a unique diversity education opportunity. This event is open to both the campus and surrounding communities.

The Tunnel follows a succession of diversity programs from schools across the nation with similar titles, such as The Tunnel of Oppression or Tunnel of Privilege. This program is a multi-sensory, educational event that guides participants through a series of audio, visual, and experiential elements that explore various facets of privilege and oppression in society. At the end of each guided tour, which lasts about 15 minutes, participants will engage in discussion with a trained facilitator as a means of processing the experience.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time VSU has conducted a large-scale program like The Tunnel,” said Sarah L. VanKuiken, VSU’s assistant director of residential education and Residence Hall Association advisor. “In traveling with student leaders to various conferences over the past two years, I have had a number of students attend sessions about programs like The Tunnel …. After learning about the event, these students have asked why we don’t do something like The Tunnel at VSU. Knowing that there is student interest was a huge impetus for bringing the event to VSU. Since I had experience planning a similar event during my time at the University of South Florida, I approached Vice President of Student Affairs Russ Mast about the idea last summer. He was able to establish a committee for the event, and we have been planning since September.”

Held in University Center North, tours will be offered every five to seven minutes. Participants should anticipate spending 45 to 60 minutes at The Tunnel.

A special faculty viewing will be held at 5:45 p.m. The plan is to offer The Tunnel on an annual basis, VanKuiken noted.

“The goal of this program is to raise awareness regarding the pervasiveness of oppression and privilege within our campus culture and greater society,” she said. “We also hope to encourage students to seek opportunities for social change and empower civil action.”

“One of the current challenges on college campuses is the frequent, covert ways that people enforce stereotypes and oppression -- simple acts like saying ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘that’s so retarded,’” she continued. “Walking around VSU, you hear statements like that on a daily basis. This event will address a number of different forms of oppression and privilege -- whether overt or covert -- that exist in our culture. Frequently, it is easy to ignore oppression against other groups of people, but The Tunnel asks you to interact with and acknowledge that oppression. It gets people to think a little differently about how they understand oppression and hopefully identify some ways they can make a change, even if that just means thinking about what they say.”

The Haven, South Georgia Pride, and the Valdosta Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) are scheduled to participate in The Tunnel.

The Tunnel is supported by VSU's Counseling Center, Office of Student Life, Employee and Organizational Development, Higher Education Student Association, Dewar College of Education, Women's and Gender Studies Program, Health and Human Promotions, Gay-Straight Alliance, and Residence Life.

For more information, please contact Sarah L. VanKuiken, VSU’s assistant director of residential education and Residence Hall Association advisor, at (229) 333-5920 or slvankuiken@valdosta.edu.