The Tunnel
Students performing in The Tunnel. (Photo by Jillian Torre)

by Katrina Avila

Sexuality, self-harm, depression, body image, and eating disorders: five of the most prevalent issues that college students are facing in their daily lives. They are also five topics that Russell Pagano, Colleen Jones, and student participants covered in The Tunnel on Friday, March 21.

The event was held in Hudson Hall at Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC). Lights were dimmed and students in groups of five to 10 people were led through classrooms and hallways by tour guides to experience The Tunnel firsthand.

Unlike in previous years, the tour guides did not try to instigate or intimidate the attendees. Pagano and Jones recognized there was some negative feedback in the past and decided to let students decide what they wanted to take from the program; the tour guides were only there to help students get around.

“In previous years, the way they were trying to get in your face…didn’t really work,” said senior Liliana Peralta. “This time, by telling the story in a subtle way, it helps to think about the situations more.”

Pagano and Jones asked students of MSMC to participate in the program—some even shared their personal stories.

Senior Anthony Krueger spoke of his 22-year-long struggle with his sexuality. Krueger proudly came out as gay.

“I found the experience to be empowering,” said Krueger. “I was beyond grateful to help Colleen and Russ.”

After listening to students’ personal stories, attendees were led to a debriefing room where they were able to talk about what they saw with staff from the Counseling Center and Residence Life.

Each attendee then went to a “hope room” sponsored by Let Our Visions Echo (L.O.V.E.), a club at MSMC, where they made a pledge to do something positive. Attendees were able to decorate a paper cut-out of a person and write their pledge on it before hanging it on a banner that will be displayed in front of the Campus Ministry office.

118 students attended The Tunnel.

Pagano and Jones hosted The Tunnel, previously known as The Tunnel of Oppression and The Tunnel of Intolerance, at MSMC as their senior thesis project.

As of now, it is uncertain who will take over The Tunnel next year; however, Pagano and Jones have some advice for anyone who takes on the challenge:

“Make sure you have plenty of help,” said Pagano. “It’s a big project to take on for one person and you need the support of peers who want to help. Also, create a new experience. People don’t want to see the same thing year after year.”

“Get in contact early,” said Jones. “Make sure you have the support of the faculty and staff—it really helps.”