UVic President Town Halls are back for the first time since 2014
UVic President Kevin Hall is stepping into the digital limelight. President Hall is conducting two town halls and a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA). Hall is the first UVic president to host an AMA on Reddit. A town hall for students has not occurred since 2014.
Hall will be answering questions on the r/uvic subreddit for an hour on March 3rd. Additionally, Hall’s virtual town halls will be March 8 and 11. He is hosting two virtual town halls specifically for students: one for graduates from March 8 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m and one for undergraduates on March 11 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. While anyone with a Reddit account can ask a question in the AMA, spots for the town halls are limited to 1000 spots each and registration will close when the event reaches capacity.
Since his appointment, Hall has been hosting a series of virtual zoom town halls with faculty, staff, and alumni to hear from the campus community.
When second-year engineering student and subreddit moderator /u/RastaCow903 found out that there would be a new president at UVic, he sent a message to /u/uvic —UVic’s semi-official account on reddit — asking for an AMA with Kevin Hall last summer. At UBC, President Santa Ono did a similar AMA in 2017, replying to a blend of humorous and serious questions sent in by the community.
Last week, UVic responded and said yes.
After some meetings with UVic administration to determine the logistics of the event, /u/RastaCow903 pinned the AMA post onto the /r/uvic subreddit.
“Interaction with students over social media is a key component of [Hall’s] listening tour as the questions themselves give him insight into student’s priorities and concerns,” said Karen Johnston, Associate Director of Public Affairs at UVic. “It’s also a format that lends itself well to his drive to always communicate with students in an open and accessible way.”
For the AMA, /u/RastaCow903 hopes there will be a mix of funny and good questions. “[I hope] people get good answers, and not the ‘politician’ answer, the fake kind of answering-without-answering it,” said the subreddit mod.
While this is the first Reddit AMA by a UVic president, the platform has been a gathering place for UVic academia. The subreddit is a popular place for the UVic community — last December, it had 479 600 page views in a single month.
English Professor Stephen Ross conducted an AMA in 2018, and has used it as an opportunity to build engagement with students, occasionally posting syllabi and community resources. Physics Associate Teaching Professor Mark Laidlaw is also active on the UVic subreddit and often responds to student concerns and questions on maths and physics. In the recent pandemic, the subreddit has become one of the key places to disseminate information out to students.
A short history of town hall events at UVic
In recent years, town halls have not been common at UVic. In fact, there has not been a town hall since 2014.
Town halls at UVic were first introduced in the 1970s by the late former UVic president Howard Petch, who was known for his approachability during his term. Petch would host a weekly drop-in session — informally known as the Petch Peeves — where any student could approach him regarding their concerns.
When former president Jamie Cassels took up the presidential mantle in 2013, he began to host a series of Campus Conversations, where Cassels introduced himself to the campus community.
In a 2014 report, Cassels wrote that “it was a tremendous experience for me as a new president to hear about the perspectives, aspirations and concerns of the university and broader community.”
While there has continued student feedback and meetings with smaller groups of students throughout Cassel’s term, this AMA marks the first open town hall for the university community at-large to interact with the president since 2014.
For the town halls on March 8 and 11, members of Divest UVic are reportedly planning to flood the suggestion box and show up to the meeting to push UVic to divest, decolonize, and work on climate action.“Divest UVic is encouraging students to participate in the upcoming Student Town Hall, and call on the UVic Foundation to Divest The Rest,” said Emily Lowan, a Divest lead organizer.