Talking Tuesdays – The What

Talking Tuesdays – The What

Starting on August 14th, Vision 2020 has held five Talking Tuesdays events at noon on Tuesdays in the communal gathering space outside James Admin, with the goal of making a comfortable space for students and staff to talk, listen, and learn. As the weather gets colder and more chancy, we are thinking about what’s next for these events, and it seemed a good time to recap what’s been talked about so far:

August 14
• Format: Lots of short 1-on-1 conversations with about 25 people present, including a good mix of students, academic staff, admin staff, and non-academic staff. Focus on who you are and what you’re doing on campus.
Mixed it up with some icebreakers and facilitated mingling.
• Lessons: It was a bit awkward having people talk about their roles as we saw some students and staff have different priorities, vocabularies and understanding of the community, and they work on different time-scales
• Best moment: The bewildered look on people’s faces as they walked by this mingling event

August 21
• Format: Old Gert’s furniture was there, and we shared stories. There was a different mix of students and staff, but similar numbers. Stories about the history of sustainability at McGill and at other universities, and the hypocrisies that can be seen at nearly every institution. That led to a conversation about what strength McGill brings to the sustainability in higher education community.
• Lessons: when talking about sustainability in higher education in public settings, it is easy to get mixed up and lost in minute details and, in doing so, turn people off of the conversation and lose the broad context
• Best moment: A hilarious story about how those doing sustainability work can be very preachy and self-righteous even while it is clear they have not been successful in the work they are most proud of

August 28
• Format: Living room style, with old Gert’s furniture, including a couch! This made a fun (and perplexing) spectacle for all the new students walking through on their way to orientation events—some great Vision 2020 visibility! Talking points included “how did you end up at McGill?” and “why are you here?”. There were around 20 people there with students being the largest demographic, and some talkative academic staff. It went quickly from stories of how some people unexpectedly wound up here and then to reasons of why we were here. A discussion around demographics of the community quickly opened up and segued into a conversation around racism and how to sensitize a community to issues that are continually affecting its members.
• Lessons: The tough conversations are really fun, but it’s very important to try to help people feel comfortable during and after those interactions.
• Best moment: Feeling like we really were having a conversation sitting around in a living room…except in the middle of campus and with a group of people that would never be in the same living room together.

September 4 – Quebec Election Day
• Format: Informally voting for different action ideas that had collected over the past few months. It was largely students, some of whom had just come back onto campus, and some incoming students got roped into conversation. Talked about different ideas, people got to meet new people and catch up with those they hadn’t seen in some time
• Lessons: The informal conversations are good. The forced 20-person conversations can be good when there is the right vibe, but small-group conversations are pretty great.
• Best moment: Catching up with students who had been away all summer

September 11
• Format: Brief intro to Talking Tuesdays, then breaking up into small groups for conversation around the questions “what are you excited about around campus now?” and “what is missing from McGill?” Ground-rules including “listen” and “be aware of how much space you are taking up”. A good mix of staff and students showed, but not many academic staff. Some good introductions and seeds of collaborations, such as someone working in the SEDE (Social Equity Diversity Education) Office meeting a high-up in the Vice-Principal of External Affairs office.
• Lessons: Small group conversations are great, and we don’t need huge attendance to have successful events, but it would be cool if there was better attendance and this could happen for more people.
• Best moment: Watching an enthusiastic brand-new student in the Sustainability, Science and Society major meet a third-year student in the same program and spend most of the hour swapping stories and advice.

September 18

September 25
• Format: Brief intro to Talking Tuesdays, then breaking up into small groups for conversation around the question “what does breaking out of the McGill bubble look like?” and “where are you seeing it happen?” The same ground –rules applied. A good mix of old and new faces in the crowd.
• Lessons: Lots of people have wanted to come to this event, but hadn’t found the time until this week. Maybe a change of time and location would help, especially considering this is in time conflict with Midnight Kitchen.
• Best moment: Getting glared at when encouraging people to move around after 10 minutes of small group conversation because 10 minutes was too short of a time for how engrossing the conversations were. Even 20 minutes was a bit short.

So what do you think? Are these events serving a useful purpose? Should they continue into the fall and winter? What would it look like if they did?

-Dave Gray-Donald

See the McGill Vision2020 Blog