Ball pit, ballot party spark discussions on civic life

Photos: Fan Wang

Local politics were made a little more approachable on campus Jan. 29, with help from a ball pit and some good discussions.

The two-part event, called IGNITE the Conversation Ball Pit and Ballot Party, started by bringing a ball pit to the Richard J. Daley Library early Tuesday to spark conversation between students.

“A lot of times, in politics, it’s really heated and polarizing,” said Spencer Long, director of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement. “So, we’ve used this ball pit as a way to de-escalate and kind of bring a fun approach to people talking about issues that are important to them.”

Using a series of dialogue questions adopted from a national initiative called Ask Big Questions, participants who jumped into the pit were able to talk about their values and civic life — no matter their political views.

“Typically conversations of this matter are really formal,” said Adil Kaleem, a business student who tried the exercise. “I imagine some big conference room or lecture, but this was really relaxed. There was no pressure.”

The constructive conversations that were started here carried on at a ballot party, where students learned about different ways to be civically engaged.

Number one on the list? Turnout for upcoming Chicago elections — and mock ballots, or practice, for when real voting takes place Feb. 26.

Besides talking about relevant topics, such as how to be an informed voter, a panel of five student leaders emphasized, time and time again, the importance of actually voting.

“If you want to see a true change in your day-to-day life, then that’s what local elections are for,” said Kennedy Hayes, a graduate student in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. “They represent you.”

LAS student McKelti Goodrich attended the event intending to learn something new.

“I’m moving to Chicago full time soon, and I just wanted to get up-to-date with things that are happening in the city, and following the local elections is probably one of the best things to do,” Goodrich said. “It’s my peers doing this and it just feels a little closer to me.”

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