Dinner, games and conversations: SGA’s Ask Away draws student input

Amanda Undari, Contributing Writer

Students had the opportunity to discuss topics including parking, inclusion and multicultural club budgets on Nov. 11, at the Student Government Association’s annual Ask Away event. 

The event was facilitated as an open forum, and the main theme was inclusion on campus. There were over 24 tables, each with a packet of thought-provoking questions meant to fuel conversation.

“Ask Away has been used as a way for students to come together and have candid conversations about topics they don’t really talk about in their day-to-day lives,” said Jeremy Gustafson, SGA vice president for diversity and inclusion.

SGA gave students various games to play while having conversations during Ask Away. (Peyton McKenzie)

However, Genesis Paulino, a sophomore sociology major, said she had mixed feelings on the impact of the event. 

“I came here and didn’t know what to expect, but when I sat down it didn’t really feel like the environment to discuss important matters,” Paulino said. “It felt like board games and food.”

Paulino said the event’s atmosphere did not match its intended purposes.

“If they want free food and prizes they should come, not if they want answers,” Paulino said.

Emily Diaz, a sophomore political science major, said she was eager to have conversations about diversity, since that was the theme of the event. However, she did not get to talk about it. 

“I don’t feel like the event was effective at all,” Diaz said. “I was at a table of SPB students only, they were more focused on the event coming to an end and complaining about attending the event. We did not have any discussion about on-campus concerns.”

SGA Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Jeremy Gustafson facilitated the organization’s Ask Away event. (Peyton McKenzie)

Other students, like Kathrina Alteus, a sophomore behavioral neuroscience major, said she enjoyed what the event had to offer. 

“It was a good experience to meet new students and have nice free food and play games with my friends,” Alteus said. “It gives students the opportunity to do something outside of academics.”

The tables each had at least one SGA representative along with the attendees. Gustafson said this helped ensure productive conversation. 

“We have individual facilitators, ranging from one to three at each table, who are SGA members that have gone through training and know how to work through those difficult conversations,” Gustafson said.

SGA also offered games like Uno and Jenga to give attendees an activity to do while they were having their conversations. 

Provost Debra Liebowitz also attended the event, and she said Ask Away was an opportunity for her to connect and receive direct inputs from students.

SGA gave students various games to play while having conversations during Ask Away. (Peyton McKenzie )

“At my table, even though we had Sorry and Jenga, we never even got to a game because we were having such vibrant conversations,” Liebowitz said. 

The discussions at Liebowitz’s table were more focused on conversation topics SGA provided, such as diversity and inclusion, parking and Quinnipiac’s goals as a university. 

“We talked about lots of issues that were on the sheet, but a lot of other things too,” Liebowitz said. “We ended up having a conversation about people’s experiences of being back on ground and adjusting and what that meant in the classroom and on campus life.”

Gustafson said events like these give the SGA a better understanding of what the student body needs. 

“We’re so used to the classroom setting where the professor lectures from a powerpoint, but that doesn’t necessarily accomplish learning and actively learning,” Gustafson said. “These round-table discussions encourage and foster a better sense of community, education and knowledge.”

SGA supplied students with free food from Eli’s on Whitney and raffle prizes ranging from a flat screen television to a Nintendo Switch for students who attended. 

Gustafson emphasized how important it is to create environments that are conducive to learning through productive conversation.

“It’s peers educating peers, and I think at a higher education institute we need to really look at how we view education,” Gustafson said. “Education has to be in all spaces including events that we host.” 

At the end of the night, Alteus said the students who attended Ask Away were able to facilitate conversation respectfully.  

“I think they did good because they were trying really hard not to offend anyone and they were working on including everyone in the conversation even if they didn’t really have much to say,” Alteus said.