Boxes and Walls

Boxes and Walls: Bringing Light to Oppressed Groups

“Eye-opening”, “powerful”, and “inspirational” were just a few words used by students to describe Boxes and Walls, an interactive tour comprised of six rooms that presented oppression faced by various minority groups. Perhaps the most powerful word used to describe the interactive tour was “necessary”. “Boxes and Walls is important because it allows students to walk in the shoes of their peers. They get to understand the issues that under-represented groups face on campus and outside the community,” said Alycia Miller, the chair of Boxes and Walls and the co-chair for Student Affairs’ Diversity and Inclusion committee. On Wednesday, November 7, students filtered in and out of the William Pitt Union Assembly Room from noon to 9 p.m. to learn about the unfair treatment and struggles people must endure every day.
 
A trained tour guide led students through six different rooms. Two of the rooms overflowed with papers from anonymous students who shared personal stories. In one of those rooms, shame and pride for identities were exhibited while the other room divulged personal reasons why sexual assault went unreported. Three other rooms included acted out scenarios that showcased the effects of racial prejudice, the hostility transgender people often face from doctors, and the struggles endured by international students when learning in a foreign setting. Additionally, the tour included an interactive room where students wore vision impairment goggles to read, used a hearing muffler to listen to a speaker, and used a wheelchair to complete a task – all efforts to emulate the difficulty of completing daily tasks by students with disabilities. The tour concluded with a brief discussion about what was learned and what can be done to help eliminate oppression and prejudices.
 
Programs like Boxes and Walls are necessary to keep the University of Pittsburgh an inclusive community. Clare Cruz, a first-year student, was among the first students to take a tour through the rooms. “I learned what it felt like to be in the shoes of people in minority groups,” said Clare. “The world needs more empathy and love. Having a program like this increases the likelihood of a positive environment”.
 
In order to keep the conversation going beyond Boxes and Walls, students can join campus organizations that promote diversity and inclusion, read current events from multiple perspectives to gain a more developed understanding, and offer to help people in need.
 
By: Jennifer Wallace