Speech communication class
University of Georgia student Candace Jones participates in a sensory deprivation exercise as students Ryan Wolfe and Sabra Stratford read torture facts last week at the Tate Student Center.Kelly Lambert / Staff
By Rebecca Quigley firstname.lastname@example.org Story updated at 11:12 PM on Wednesday, April 25, 2007
A pair of messengers in black prisoner hoods silently cruised the University of Georgia Tate Plaza on Tuesday, beckoning students to experience what happens to prisoners at overseas detention centers.
The men handed out fliers advertising "Torture 101" - an exhibit in the Tate Center Gallery that UGA speech communication students created as part of a final project for their "Rhetoric of Torture" course.
"From a practical standpoint, I wanted (the class) to put together some kind of public project that would be educational," said the class' instructor Marita Gronnvoll, a fourth-year graduate student.
The seven-part exhibit included a "sensory deprivation" station where participants could experience a mild form of torture where a prisoner is blindfolded and forced to listen to abrasive heavy metal music through a set of earphones.
Visitors also watched student-made videos of man-on-the-street interviews about U.S. interrogation methods and a mock instructional video about how to carry out extraordinary rendition in secret.
The class focused the demonstration on the 2004 tortures at the U.S. detention center in Abu Ghraib because more details and images have been made public about the torture there than any other interrogation center, Gronnvoll said.
Speech communication graduate students Jon Hoffman and Rebecca Kuehl stopped by to check out their peers' work.
"I feel like I'm a relatively observant news watcher but to see it all in one place is disturbing," Hoffman said.
While some types of interrogation might be appropriate, "there's just gotta be a line you draw," Hoffman said.
Kuehl was amazed at the man-on-the-street video in which an interviewer asked people hanging out on College Avenue about U.S. military officers torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2004.
Interviewers asked: What is Abu Ghraib?; What is the Bush administration's position on torture?; What is extraordinary rendition?
Many of the people in the video couldn't answer any of the questions and one man jokingly said that "extraordinary rendition" is a cover band's version of a Led Zeppelin song.
The interviews made Kuehl realize how people don't know much about what's in the news and aren't outraged at the human rights violations going on around the world, she said.
"I am disappointed in the American people," Kuehl said.
But at the beginning of the semester, even many students in the class had the same response as the people in the street interviews, said senior Caroline Little.
As the most powerful nation in the world, people look to the U.S. to set "a good example in the world," Little said.
Some people responded to the students' demonstration as leftist or biased but "it's important to stimulate their thoughts about (torture) ... it's about holding officials responsible," she said. "We were trying to make it as factual as possible."
Even though other countries allow extreme forms of torture, U.S. officials have been hypocritical because they claim not to sanction torture as a form of interrogation while allowing it to happen, Little said.
"We're setting a bad example," she said.
Gronnvoll hopes that visitors left the exhibit with the understanding that torture is neither a liberal or a conservative issue, but a human rights issue, she said.
"As citizens we have a responsibility to ask ourselves how far we are willing to allow our representatives to go under the guise of protecting us," Gronnvoll wrote in an e-mail.
Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 042507
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