By Ashar Memon, April 5 2019 —
Just a few feet away from the stage in the south courtyard of MacHall on April 3, where the Students’ Union was holding their biannual town hall, dozens of students crowded around couches.
The students, with their heads peering down to their phones, weren’t there to listen to the SU executives, however.
“I’m waiting for the raid,” said computer science student Israa Farouk. “It’s in five minutes.”
In Pokémon Go, the popular mobile game, players can participate in “raid battles” where they team up to fight powerful Pokémon.
“It’s like a legendary Pokemon, so you can fight it, and with a lot of people around, it’s easy to defeat,” Farouk said. “Then, you get a chance to catch it.”
Raids take place at local Pokémon gyms, like the one in the MacHall courtyard. This particular raid was scheduled to start around noon. At the same time and place, SU executives were delivering updates on their executive plan, BSD and more as part of a town hall event meant to increase student engagement.
“One of the things that we wanted to focus on is also making sure that the campus community is more aware of the things the SU does for them,” SU president Sagar Grewal told the audience. “And so one of the ways we wanted to do this was by hosting two town halls — this is the second of which, so I’m glad to say this is now complete.”
Despite it being noon on a weekday in a relatively busy MacHall, there were about 12–14 people seated in the town hall audience — including elected SU executives and their friends — which was set up with 40 chairs.
On Facebook, where the town hall was live-streamed, a video of the event had just over 300 views at time of writing. However, it was unclear how many people actively watched the video — Facebook counts any session that lasts for at least three seconds as a ‘view.’
By comparison, there were at least 30–40 students standing or seated nearby the stage, many of whom were participating in the raid and others just chatting with friends. Throughout the hour-long town hall, there were also dozens of students walking by, some giving occasional glances before returning to their business.
“The only thing I particularly know about the Students’ Union is that they run some of the food places here and people are still waiting for the pizza place,” Farouk said as she waited for the raid. “I don’t know what they do, though. I mean, I would like to know.”
Other students said they just weren’t particularly interested in the various happenings of the SU.
“You don’t participate in something you’re not super interested in and there’s just not a lot of people interested in student government or see how that kind of affects them,” said English student Danielle, who only gave her first name. “That’s probably why a lot of people don’t go.
“It’s also near the end of the semester, people are probably cramming for finals,” she added.
Meanwhile, Grewal was speaking to a portion of the presentation titled ‘Engaging with Students.’
“We see the town hall as hopefully a great opportunity to showcase the things that the executives are working on because we believe students should know what their executives are doing, as they are elected officials in these roles,” he said.
Computer science student Nathan Sehn and drama student Nicole Rathgaber, who were also there for the raid, said they found out about the event after they sat down next to it.
“I know it matters, but I feel like there isn’t a whole lot of people who know about the events and if there was more information out there, like, ‘Oh they’re having a seminar today at this time,’ there would be a few more people here for that and not playing games,” Sehn said.
“We did get some free freezies from the SU, so that was kind of an attention-grab,” Rathgaber added.
During the town hall, along with discussing their executive plan, executives also talked about MacHall and changes to BSD. It wrapped up shortly after 12:30 p.m.
For some, the event ended on a sour note.
“No, I didn’t catch it,” Danielle said when asked if she caught the raid boss Pokémon.