From childhood play spot to social experiment

On a warm spring day, Clemson’s Social Justice Committee set out to change the community, one rubber ball at a time. For the second year in a row, members of the Social Justice Committee propped up a tent with a table and whiteboard alongside a wooden pit stacked high with rubber balls. The event, entitled “CU at the Ball Pit,” was inspired by a social experiment conducted by the company SoulPancake which seeks to encourage conversations among various individuals on campus by having them sit and ask questions in a ball pit.

SoulPancake is an organization known for YouTube video sensations, including the popular “Kid President” clips. So when Wesley Hutchins, a Clemson graduate student now serving as an assistant director for leadership at Eastern Carolina University, decided last year that he wanted to replicate a SoulPancake experiment on Clemson’s campus, students jumped at the idea.

Hutchins, an engineering student, constructed a gate-accessible ball pit out of wooden boards from Lowe’s, and the experiment, which sought to inspire profound conversations with complete strangers, took off from there.

On April 16 of this year, the Social Justice Committee within Residential Life repeated the experiment at an event known as “CU at the

Ball Pit.”

Over the course of two days, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., volunteer graduate students and members of the Social Justice Committee supervised as a variety of Clemson students, campus tour attendees, professors and faculty members sat with each other in the ball pit and attempted to hold meaningful conversations with the person opposite them.