Event promotes tolerance and compassion at New Paltz

Members of the campus community took part in Tunnel of Oppression, an annual event, held on the New Paltz campus Nov. 19, aimed at raising awareness and promoting an on-campus culture of tolerance and compassion.

The 2001 recipient of the Program of the Year award from the Northeast Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls (NEACURH), Tunnel of Oppression is, “Unlike other programs,” in that it, “goes beyond just talking about the issues by showing the point of view of someone who is being oppressed or discriminated against,” said Robin Weinstein ’14, co-president of the National Residence Hall Honorary and partial coordinator of this year’s event.

Participants are asked to walk through the “tunnel” bearing witness to skits centered on prevalent issues of hate that affect our society today. This year’s event featured eight skits that addressed a range of issues, including eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and sexual assault.

“The discomfort you feel as a participant is part of what’s valuable,” said Weinstein.“Skits can be a powerful tool for evoking sympathy. It represents a creative response to the kinds of issues that colleges everywhere must continue to raise awareness about.”

In effect, Tunnel of Oppression not only reminds the campus community that many of these issues still plague our society today, but that we all have a responsibility to speak up, out, and against forms of oppression.

Following the event, the Psychological Counseling Center—the college’s on-campus counseling group—held an open forum, fostering discussion, debriefing participants, and extending its support to students by inviting them to reach out if they should need or want to talk.

“The discussion was good,” Weinstein reflected. “People could better relate to what others were saying, and seemed to feel more strongly about sticking up for one another and giving a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves—even if they are not being directly affected. It brought out a sense of community; it was really positive.”