Video: Tunnel of Oppression allows MTSU students to better understand oppression, discrimination

Video by Nigel Shelly / Contributing Videographer

Photo and story by Megan Cole / Contributing Writer

Students came to the Tunnel of Oppression, which was set up in the Tom Jackson Building Wednesday, in order to learn more about topics of discrimination and oppression in various communities. The set up included black drapery all around the building, simulating an actual tunnel.

Students were guided through the tunnel and visited interactive booths that educated them on topics such as acceptance, awareness and mental health. The booths, which were sponsored by several MTSU departments, were meant to be thought-provoking and allowed students to understand oppression on a deeper level.

The last time MTSU set up a Tunnel of Oppression was back in 2014. This was also the first time MTSU alumnus and former MT Lambda President Joshua Rigsby experienced the event.

Rigsby is now the LGBT+ program assistant for the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs at MTSU. He organized the Tunnel of Oppression this year because he believes that it’s an important event for students to experience.

“I think the first step to educating about a given topic is to have people step out of their comfort zone a little bit and acknowledge some truths about the world that they’re not currently aware of,” Rigsby said.

One interactive booth that caught student’s attention was the virtual reality simulation. Through the simulation, students could completely immerse themselves in a situation as a third party. Students were able to experience a real-life domestic violence case, in which one person was murdered. The simulation did not show anything graphic, but students were able to hear the police phone calls and the gunshot. MTSU Counseling Services representatives were also available for students after they took off the virtual reality headset.

Stephanie Dean, an assistant professor of interactive media, guided students through the virtual reality booth at the Tunnel of Oppression. She explained some of the reactions she received at the Tunnel of Oppression and why she believes virtual reality is such a powerful tool.

“I have had a variety of reactions,” Dean said. “I had a very large man go into the simulation, and he took off the headset afterward and said, ‘I’m so frustrated because I couldn’t do anything.’ I’ve had some women cry afterward. I think how you react to the simulation depends on your own personal experiences.”

Dean said that she warns all students about what they will see before they put on the headset because she “feels like they deserve the warning.”

Another booth that students were able to view was the “What Were You Wearing?” wall. This wall displayed outfits that victims wore when they were sexually assaulted. Different organizations on campus sponsored outfits to help bring attention to sexual assault.

Director of the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students Barbara Scales said that she believes it’s important to show people that sexual assault is never about what the person is wearing. One outfit that impacted Scales specifically was a sundress that represented a six year old that was sexually assaulted.

“So many times, we forget about the children who are also victims of violence,” Scales said.

The “What Were You Wearing?” exhibits will be displayed all over campus from April 2 to 6.

For more information on the Tunnel of Oppression, email

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email

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