Student Union seeks better consistency, success from 2012-13 Speaker Series
Last year, the Student Union Speaker Series faced cancellations by the likes of Al Gore and Sofia Vergara and had to provide John Legend with thousands of dollars more than originally intended to ensure that he would speak.
Certain student groups are also appealing for some of the same speakers that were not approved last year, such as the African Students Association (ASA) and Ashoka.
The ASA was one of the many groups that felt cheated by last year’s system. Its bid for actor and model Djimon Hounsou fell through in the final twenty minutes of deliberation at the appeals meeting as a last minute rule change undermined their bid.
“It was heartbreaking,” senior Lamley Lawson, president of ASA, said. “We worked really hard and at the end it all went down the drain. People forgot our presentation and latched onto a name. It was extremely frustrating.”
This year, though, Student Union is attempting to repair these issues. Instead of a package system, where multiple speakers were lumped together in one set and then voted on as a whole, speakers are now being looked at individually.
“[Last year’s process] was hypothetically a good idea, but it just didn’t work in practice,” senior and Student Union Treasury Representative Michael Rudolph said.
In hopes of avoiding cancellations, speaker names are now provided to Barbara Rea, director of the Assembly Series & Special Projects, so that she, not the student groups themselves, can contact the speakers.
Forty speaker bids were originally submitted to Rea, who then narrowed the list to 25. The 25 speakers who made it through were then limited to 15 by Student Union Treasury.
These 15 student groups will make appeals on Tuesday, Sept. 18. Each student group will give a five-minute presentation and then the Treasury will select five to seven speakers based on their presentations and cost.
This process will take place in an open meeting that will begin at 9:30 p.m. in Simon Hall, room 113.
“It is difficult because no matter what, there is not going to be enough money to bring all of the speakers to campus,” junior and co-chair of the Student Groups Activities Committee (SGAC) Jake Lichtenfeld said. “It’s no fun to say no, but I think this year we obtained a system that is acceptable…It is great to see how the speakers are going to enrich campus.”
The main goal for this year’s series is to create a well-rounded group of speakers that will reflect and engage the diverse Washington University community, according to senior Paul Blachar, speaker of the Treasury.
This means that the speakers selected will represent a broad spectrum of interests, including engineering, politics, entertainment and many others. Some of the speakers being looked at include Fareed Zakaria, Sanjay Gupta, hip-hop group Flobots and even the Mythbusters, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage.
Speakers like Zakaria and Gupta were the aims of previous appeals. Two different student groups, Ashoka last year and Synapse currently, have appealed to bring Gupta to campus.
Senior Ammar Karimjee, vice president of Ashoka, said that Ashoka began its appeal for Zakaria before the allegations of his plagiarizing an article from the New Yorker came out earlier this summer. While CNN and the New Yorker absolved him of the allegations, Ashoka is currently in deliberation about whether or not to continue its appeal for Zakaria.
Blachar expressed his hopes for this year’s series.
“We are just looking for the best fit for the student body,” he said. “Last year was the first year we put [the series] into the hands of students, so there were bound to be hurdles along the way. This year we did a lot of things to fix those problems.”