Students combine pizza, politics
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 12:10
A room in the Milo Bail Student Center was filled with students talking about political issues ranging from health care, to immigration, to international relations Oct. 25. It was a relaxed, open discussion environment with no yelling or aggressive posturing. And there was a free pizza lunch.
“The first goal is to get more informed conversation at the student level,” said Maria Knudtson, faculty organizer from the English department, “The second is to read the paper.”
The New York Times and Student Government Association sponsored the event helping promote the Maverick Readership Program. Knudtson said reading the paper helps everyone maintain and improve reading comprehension, and since every student is paying for the newspapers, they ought to take advantage of the program. UNO’s program provides students with The New York Times, USA Today and the Omaha World-Herald.
Students made up the majority of the nearly 100 who showed up. Ten tables were organized by topics like social media, third parties and employment. Faculty sponsors served to guide and engage conversation at each table. Most brought a recent news article for everyone to discuss.
Knudtson said this year’s event was one of the more successful of the past five or so.
“It’s a low risk event. You come here, get some free pizza, and talk because what you say is valuable,” Knudtson said.
Many of the students said they came for class credit and pizza, but by the end of the event, they all said they had some different ideas.
“It was surprisingly interesting. I’d do it again,” said junior Faisal Mudhir who is studying computer science.
Mudhir sat at the international relations table, and gave unique insight on the Middle East from his time living in Iraq and Jordan. He said while in the US he remains neutral on most issues, that he hopes Americans will choose leaders who will work for peace and progress.
Many students hung around after the event, talking in small groups and exchanging contact information. While most had come for classes, many enjoyed getting a chance to express their opinions and ideas on hot issues. While there were differing political views at the tables, no one felt it had been partisan. Knudtson said that was exactly what she had hoped for.
“I believe the university has a responsibility to encourage civic duty in students,” Knudtson said.
She said party or ideology shouldn’t matter, so long as people make their own informed decisions.
Other students who hung around had only one question: “When can we do it again?” Knudtson said there will be a similar event coming in February. Once a week, a small group of students can gather for “Times Talks” events on specific issues. She estimates they’ll be limited to about 20 students, occur over lunch, and probably have free food.
“A lot of the future of these events depends on what you say,” she told the room during her introduction.
While many are probably thankful for the end of election season’s robo-calls, attack advertisements and bickering between friends and family; politics doesn’t stop after Nov. 6. Knudtson stressed the importance of reading the paper, any paper, online or in print, and keeping engaged in the political world. Take a little breather after the election. Enjoy some new commercials. Amend those family ties. Most importantly, keep your eyes open for other political roundtable type events at UNO for a chance to get some food and meaningful discussion with your peers.