SU Speaker Series funds four major names
Voting down appeals for expensive and controversial speakers over the course of a nearly seven hour meeting Tuesday night, Student Union Treasury allocated approximately $111,250 of its annual budget to bring the four speakers to campus.
Pending final contracts being signed, the allocations will cover the speakers’ honorariums and travel expenses to come to campus this fall or spring. Groups will have to appeal separately to program events featuring the speakers.
“I’m really happy with the decisions we made,” senior Ammar Karimjee, vice president of finance, said. “Obviously I would love to fund more but I really liked the conversations Treasury had with who to fund. Overall I think it was very civil, I don’t think anyone left too upset.”
One of the most contentious votes of the night surrounded the Student Health Advisory Committee’s (SHAC) appeal to bring writer and activist Dan Savage to campus.
Savage, who runs a nationally syndicated column titled “Savage Love,” started the “It Gets Better” movement—a video campaign to provide support and reassurance to struggling LGBT youth. But following a few later-retracted remarks and continued criticism that the movement excludes people of many minority sexual orientations and ethnic groups, Savage has become a largely divisive figure.
While the majority of Treasury representatives originally spoke in favor of funding Savage for Sex Week next semester, SHAC’s appeal ultimately failed to pass, 2-16.
“People will not feel included; they’re going to feel excluded; they’re not going to feel empowered to speak for themselves,” sophomore Brendan Ziebarth said in response to the appeal.
But while many students voiced concern with bringing such a polarizing figure to campus, some argued that bringing a big name to campus would help spur a campus conversation about sex.
“People keep talking about revitalizing sex week,” junior Kate Cygan said. ““People have sex, people have lots of issues around sex that they don’t understand.”
“While he has said stuff that he has apologized for about bi-phobia, that doesn’t mean that’s going to be something he’s going to be saying in this presentation,” she added.
The closest vote of the night, however, was on whether to fund architect Daniel Libeskind—the architect of the new World Trade Center in New York. After initially denying the Architecture School Council’s appeal for Libeskind, Treasury decided to vote again, but the appeal failed 8-10.
The appeals process this year was adapted to rectify some concerns last year with groups feeling that their speakers were unfairly dismissed. This year they voted on each speaker individually instead of voting on speaker lineups.
“It did take a little bit longer which is weird, but I think that just means we were perhaps having better conversations,” Karimjee said. “And perhaps…the speakers were more competitive.”
They also removed the Big Speakers Account following the College Democrats’ failing to bring Al Gore to campus last year after receiving funding.
In addition to Dan Savage and Daniel Libeskind, Treasury also rejected funding for Wanda Sykes, Djimon Hounsou, Sanjay Gupta, Ezra Klein, The Flobots, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Benjamin Carson. Ashoka dropped its appeal for journalist and personality Fareed Zakaria before Tuesday’s meeting.