Immersed in issues that matter

Students wear headphones as they experience the Butler Center's multisensory Tunnel of Oppression exhibition. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

By Ashley A. Williams

Students wear headphones as they experience the Butler Center's multisensory Tunnel of Oppression exhibition. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Immersed in issues that matter

By Ashley A. Williams
The annual Tunnel of Oppression sensory exhibition showcases social justice issues in ways that challenge perceptions and ideas.

Instead of spending his weekend socializing and catching up with friends and family, University of Miami junior Brandon Martin spent 32 hours draping curtains, pinning posters, and designing a sensory-based, multimedia exhibit in the Shalala Student Center ballrooms that reflects religious issues in the world today.

Martin, a mechanical engineering major, is the student organization liaison for Tunnel of Oppression—an annual exhibit that is hosted by The Butler Center for Service and Leadership. In this role, he met with religious groups on campus to ensure he was capturing messages of all religions to display as part of this interactive exhibit, which is designed to challenge people’s ideas and perceptions of issues dealing with oppression taking place today.

“I met with groups like Hillel and the Interfaith Council to come together to bring their ideas because I wanted to represent as many different religions as possible,” Martin said. “We drew out the way we wanted the room to look and took the ideas from paper to real life.”

Open through Thursday, Jan. 24, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Tunnel of Oppression takes participants on a 45-minute guided tour of “rooms” to inform them on a range of social justice issues including women’s rights, education, LGBTQ+, racism, human trafficking, religion, the environment, and immigration. 

The lighting is dimmed. The images are compelling and real. Participants are given headphones that allow them to listen to accompanying narratives to evoke emotions and feelings related to the various topics.

For Martin and the other members of the organization, the goal is to spark change in the world one person at a time.

“When you’re faced with it and you actually take the time to look at the statistics and read what’s happening, it’s really eye-opening,” Martin said. “In the last room, the Interconnectedness Room, you can debrief and talk about how you’re going to make a change in the world.”

Naomi Mascharak and Savannah Lawrence, students in the accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program, shared their thoughts immediately after going through the tunnel.

“It’s disappointing that many people aren’t taking action,” Mascharak said. “It’s crazy to know that many people just don’t believe the facts and want to spend a lot of time arguing about these topics.”

Lawrence echoed those thoughts as well.

“As a mixed race person, I have been told many times that I am not allowed to feel a certain way about certain topics," she said. "Sometimes even by my own family members. It was very shocking to see the facts. There’s no way you can argue about facts.”