TableTalk joins the conversation

Entering the dining hall freshman year, most students, having very independent schedules, end up either eating alone in their room or devouring their food in five minutes and leaving right away.

In the absence of interaction, the majority of students fail to notice others sitting down in the dining hall to do just the same.

In an attempt to tackle this issue, IU junior Haley Cohen is working to bring TableTalk to IU. TableTalk is a framework for conversation between people who would not interact under ordinary circumstances.

“The overall picture is to basically provide a space and a framework for groups that would never see each other or have an opportunity to meet,” Cohen said.

The TableTalk platform is broken down into three campaigns: TableTalk, LookUp and CampusCouches.

TableTalk is a preset and preplanned conversation, usually during dinner, between two disconnected groups. The groups have a meeting before the conversation to come up with questions and topics for discussion, which is facilitated by a member of TableTalk.

“We are trying to focus on as many people from as many different circles,” Cohen said. “We are an all-inclusive club.”

The next campaign, CampusCouches, is a more spontaneous approach. This initiative sets up furniture around campus and invites all who want to engage in unstructured conversation. Facilitators, one per couch, will be spread throughout campus to start an open conversation without agenda.

“The goal is to have people leave from a couch knowing the name, where they are from and small things about the stranger they just sat down next to in the middle of their day,” TableTalk Vice President Zachary ?Drucker said.

The last campaign, LookUp, is an initiative that encourages community members to put their phones down and share a dynamic conversation. It is a way to combat the issue of people not interacting with the world beyond their ?technology.

“Coming to such a large school where there are many different divides, it is ?important to bring people together,” Drucker said.

TableTalk originated at Emory University. Cohen said he hopes to bring the organization to IU, which would become the second university in the country to offer TableTalk.

The most difficult obstacle Cohen anticipates is getting people to step outside their comfort zone. As the school expands, it is important to break it down to create friendships, Cohen said.

“TableTalk is not just a conversation,” Drucker said. “We are trying to promote this new culture at IU.”

TableTalk will have its first call-out meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Dogwood Room of the Indiana ?Memorial Union.

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