CSU, Chico News

Town Hall Meeting Program Grows in Size

Date: 11-27-2007

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

As part of an ongoing effort to increase students’ civic engagement and connection with the community, approximately 500 California State University, Chico students and an additional 100 community and campus members will be taking part in a town hall meeting Friday, Nov. 30.

The town hall meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the BMU Auditorium and is followed by a reception at 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Call 898-6579 for more information.

The town hall meeting is the third organized on campus, but will be substantially larger than prior meetings. The first meeting, in November 2006, included approximately 180 participants, and the second, in April 2007, included nearly 300 participants.

After an introduction to the town hall format, participants will break up into smaller groups for discussions starting at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. CSU, Chico students will lead discussions on 28 complex and controversial topics, such as sexism, immigration, video game violence, ethics scandals in sports, homelessness and obesity.

The program is the public sphere portion of the ENGL 130 course, “Academic Writing,” that most first-year students take in their first or second semester. Partnering with the First-Year Experience Program to address President Zingg’s call for the development of students as scholar-citizens, the Composition Program, under the leadership of Professor Jill Swiencicki, focuses its first-year course on twin objectives–the development of students as scholars and the development of students as informed citizens/community participants. First-year students taking part in the Town Hall Meeting research the topics beforehand and prepare brief presentations and questions to engage all participants in discussions of public issues. Describing the importance of the Town Hall, Swiencicki said, “Research conducted by the newest members of Chico State – first-year students – is meaningful and deserves attention, time, and care from even the most senior members of our community.”

Professor Thia Wolf, director of the First-Year Experience Program, said the town hall meeting has grown in more ways than just number of participants. There will be an ongoing emphasis on following up on ideas brought up in discussions, she said. Student discussion facilitators will meet with policy makers at the reception to talk about what can be done regarding local impacts of the topics, and a Web site devoted to student engagement with the town hall meeting issues is in the works.

Wolf said students who have taken part in prior town hall meetings have told faculty that it has been a very beneficial experience. “Students say they did not realize that engaging in adult conversation around serious public issues was enjoyable to them,” she said. “This is a key event for them entering the adult world, and understanding that their scholarship can be meaningful beyond the classroom. It is more than a mere exercise.”

Student exhibits related to the town hall meeting topics will be on display in CSU, Chico’s Free Speech Area 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30. Wolf said the exhibits will range from multimedia work to live presentations.