Students often talk about how being on a college campus—Tech’s in particular—is like being inside a bubble that separates them from the comings and goings of the outside world. Normally, they are thinking of things like politics and news when it comes to this, but sometimes there’s a bit more involved.
Reality Unveiled is an project, hosted by the Department of Housing and the Office of Diversity Programs, that aims to educate students on what else goes on outside “the Bubble.”
While students inside the protection of a college campus don’t generally have to worry about things like poverty, genocide and human trafficking, they are a part of daily life for millions of others people in the world.
“This event is about letting students and members of Tech know what’s going on in the world…. How we, as part of a [college] campus, are separated from so much that is going on around us. This event helps us look around at the world, know what’s going on and take actions to change what’s going on,” said Siddharth Shah, second-year IE and an RA in North Avenue Apartments.
While many students are vaguely aware that these things go on somewhere in the world, many don’t realize how close to home some of them hit.
One fact that was strongly emphasized during the event was that Atlanta is the number one city in the United States for human trafficking, particularly of a sexual nature. The ease of transport into and out of the city makes it popular with sex tourists, with some flying in only to fly out again immediately after being serviced.
The event itself was set up in an unused hall on the first floor of North Avenue East. Two apartments were modified so each contained a handful of exhibits.
The first contained exhibits on poverty, immigration, genocide and human trafficking and the second included homophobia, sexism, racism, substance abuse and hope for change.
One room at the event had a map where several of the areas where sex trafficking is most often practiced were marked. One of the most common was the intersection of Peachtree and North Ave. (two blocks away from the North Ave. Apartments) and another was in the middle of Buckhead.
The rooms for poverty and immigration were made to mimic the environments the homeless and illegal immigrants find themselves in. Cramped spaces, trash littering the floor and a large jug acting as a communal bathroom painted a gritty picture of what life can be like.
Other rooms contained images representing the atrocities committed in various genocides, the drug-and-violence-filled lives of modern-day slaves and images demonstrating acts and themes of sexism across the world. Each of these was accompanied by a collection of facts, figures and quotes outlining the extent of problems like these.
Latops and speakers were scattered about each of the rooms, each with something different playing on them. One screen showed scenes from the Rwandan genocide, another showed propoganda used to trick young children into slavery and yet another showed videos of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
Audio also played a big role in the event, through ambient noise in several rooms and, most poignantly, in anti-gay propoganda that was played in the room dedicated to the problem of homophobia.
At the end of the hall, counselors from the Counseling Center talked with students about what they saw and how they could fight issues like these.
Stephanie Ray, Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Diversity Programs, was present at the event as well.
When asked how she got involved, she said, “Last year I worked with Georgia State on their Tunnel of Oppression to get ideas for something similar for GT. I didn’t work with Reality Unveiled last year, so this year when the Department of Housing asked if I would help support their endeavors, I was more than happy to do so.”
Ray said GSU’s tunnel was a joint effort between GSU, Tech, Morehouse and Agnes Scott.
Ray said, “Last year, about 500 students went through their Tunnell of Oppression… Each of us had a room. Georgia Tech’s room was the tunnel of slurs, the very first room you entered. On the first day, I worked with Parking and Transportation, who provided a shuttle [to] GSU all that day [and] at least 100 GT folk took the shuttle that day.”
Ray said one in subject in particular sticks out to her from the exhibit.
“Human trafficking is the one that gets to me, simply because its a major problem here in Atlanta. We’re one of the cities with the most human trafficking. It’s painful that this happens in your city,” said Ray.