The “Tunnel of Oppression” is in its tenth year at the University of Montana, and this year, the UM Student Involvement Network—along with Clearwater Credit Union--is providing the opportunity for members of the public to experience oppression in an interactive tour. KGVO News spoke to Morgan Starnes, a student at UM who is involved in the project.

This year is the first year that the Tunnel of Oppression will be made available to the public. The UC Special Projects and Events is hosting a community night on March 11, which will include 45-minute guided tours as well as a networking opportunity with local businesses. Starnes says that the purpose of the project is to bring people closer to the problems of oppression.

“It’s an event designed to highlight contemporary issues of oppression. Essentially it’s an interactive experience. We have multiple rooms in the tunnel—I think we have about seven or nine—and you go through these rooms. It’s designed to be an immersive experience and to engage your emotions. [It’s] the best way we can to reach our audience and give them a sense of what it would be like to be one of these marginalized groups and to experience this kind of oppression.”

Previous years’ themes included food and housing insecurity, where participants could experience the effects of hunger in a classroom; or human trafficking, where participants read stories from trafficking victims. Starnes said she assumed the role of an immigration officer in a past Tunnel of Oppression.

Theme ideas are brought to the UC Special Projects and Events by various student groups on campus. Then, the Tunnel of Oppression is created with both multimedia features and live actors who guide participants through the tunnel.

“The idea is that, by engaging the emotions of people coming in,” Starnes stated, “they will better understand the issues of oppression that we’re trying to highlight within all of these various groups, so they’re more likely to do their own research and find out what they can do to help.”

Starnes says that it’s important for people educate themselves about issues of oppression. By doing so, she says, people can hold themselves accountable to make a change.

The project leaders gather feedback each year in order to understand how the Tunnel of Oppression impacts participants. The last room of the Tunnel is called the Room of Hope, where participants can enjoy refreshments and discuss their experience of the tour.

To register for this year’s Tunnel of Oppression community night, visit the website here. Admission is free and open to the public on Wednesday, March 11. The 45-minute tours will begin at 5 PM and run until 8:30 PM in the UC Ballroom.