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Anti-discrimination exhibit, 'Boxes and Walls,' comes to UI

Jeff Unger, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- After former University of Illinois student Benjamin Smith went on a hate-filled killing spree last July through Illinois and Indiana, UI students and staff members wanted to counter the negative message that Smith sent.

They decided to present a program called "Boxes and Walls," an interactive tour that gives visitors a chance to experience different forms of discrimination minorities have faced.

Exhibit visitors are taken through eight rooms where they will interact with students who play the role of the oppressive groups. One room, for example, will show visitors how it felt to be a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Students acting as Nazi soldiers will confront the visitors and shout at them to get on trains so they can be sent to the camps.

"It gets pretty intense," said Kipp Cox, an assistant director for the Housing Division who has seen a Boxes and Walls program at another university. "You get frustrated," he said. "You feel the oppression but that's what it's all about."

The other rooms will offer information on the discrimination faced by minority communities including African Americans; Asian/Pacific Americans; the disabled; Latino/Latina Americans; lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered Americans; Native Americans; and women.

After seeing this program work at other universities, Pamela Graglia, an assistant director for Housing and the coordinator for Boxes and Walls, thought it would be a good way for UI students to be active in sending a message that hate had no place on the UI campus.

About 80 students are volunteering with Graglia. Cox said that the staff had originally planned to wait until next year to bring the program together, but that the students involved asked to start immediately.

The program will be held in the basement of the McKinley Foundation, 809 S. Fifth St., Champaign, on April 11-14 and 17-21 from 4 to 8:30 p.m. daily. Tours of 12 to 15 people begin every half-hour and generally take an hour and 15 minutes.

More information is available on the Web at or from Graglia at or 333-0770.