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Treasury funds Jon Huntsman, Jonathan Gruber

With representatives voting down speakers they thought would draw crowds but fail to make any lasting campus impact, Student Union Treasury allocated $77,000 to bring politician-diplomat Jon Huntsman and economist Jonathan Gruber to campus this fall.

In the Sunday afternoon meeting, Treasury also rejected three other major appeals for speeches from surgeon-journalist Atul Gawande and second-wave feminist Gloria Steinem and for a debate between former Congressman Newt Gingrich and former Obama campaign advisor Robert Gibbs.

It was one of two SU Speaker Series meetings that Treasury plans to hold this year. Because SU voted on its general budget for the 2013-14 academic year months earlier than in previous years, Treasury allowed groups to appeal for speakers before summer break to make scheduling a smoother process.

The decision to pass on Steinem’s Sex Week lecture in favor of Gruber’s for a Hilltop GlobeMed conference followed hours of discussion over whether Steinem, a 79-year-old feminist icon, would be relevant and able to pull in a diverse crowd.

The final verdict, with a 1-12-2 vote, was that she would not.

“The reason we have such long discussions—such constructive discourse with each other—is so that you can fully hash out those decisions, and I think that at the end of the day, we all feel confident with what we did,” representative and freshman Scotty Jacobs said.

Members of the Student Health Advisory Committee argued that bringing Steinem, who was awarded an honorary degree from Washington University last year, back to campus would allow for an important discussion about rape culture and gender equality in higher education. But they said they hope to use the summer to regroup and pick an exciting speaker to headline next year’s Sex Week.

“Every year, we want to do something a little bit different with the Sex Week keynote speaker,” incoming SHAC president and junior Megan Lane said. “For all the people we were looking into, they were more intellectual, more feminist scholars.”

The Washington University Political Review was easily successful in its appeal to bring Jon Huntsman to campus this fall. The Republican politician most known for his short-lived presidential campaign and moderate leanings was ambassador to China from 2009-11.

“He sits at the intersection of politics, diplomacy and business, so he’s someone who can appeal to a broad spectrum of the community,” WUPR staff editor and junior Nick Hinsch said. “He’s going to really address the entire campus.”

WUPR staff editor and junior Will Dobbs-Allsopp said Huntsman was a good choice because he does not strictly keep to party lines.

“He is where I think a lot of this campus would like to see the Republican party,” Dobbs-Allsopp said. “More to the point, he’s the kind of guy who has shown that he has the tools to succeed in various different fields, which is kind of the direction a lot of Wash. U. kids are headed in.”

Treasury was not as enthusiastic about the other political speaker appeal on the docket, with many people at the meeting saying that bringing someone as polarizing as Gingrich to campus would likely be more spectacle than substance. The debate would have cost $79,000, about half of what Treasury hopes to spend on all major speakers for the coming year.

“The main thing I wanted to do was bring two people who spoke about their representative sides pretty well, and then they could debate about it,” junior and College Republicans president Matt Lauer said. “A lot of people in [Treasury] were thinking that no one would really go in with an open mind, and I feel that’s not giving enough credit to the students here.”

Treasury rejected Ashoka’s $63,000 appeal to bring Gawande to campus and, after extended discussion, approved GlobeMed’s $26,000 appeal for Gruber.

Sophomore Antea DeMarsilis, who co-presented GlobeMed’s appeal, said the group hopes that Gruber’s appearance will attract more students to the conference they are hosting in the fall. The conference will bring in GlobeMed members from across the Midwest and west coast.

“A lot of campus has a lot of misconceptions about what the mandate is and what health care reform means,” DeMarsilis said. “We decided that if we’re going to do this, going to make a big statement, we might as well go for the big guy, and we got him. And so I think that we’re really going to make a change in anybody that comes to watch.”

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  • Katie says:

    Gingrich/Gibbs would’ve been very cool. Definitely would’ve gone to that.

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  • Ben Luben says:

    May be misreading it, but it seemed like they were addressing the question of generational relevance (ie whether a 79 year old activist would have the most to say to a Wash U audience). Definitely not saying they’re right, but I don’t think it goes much further than that.

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  • Sanaa says:

    What was the point of mentioning Steinam’s age in this article? I don’t see anyone else’s age mentioned.

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    • anon says:

      that was a main concern of treasury, also that it would be a mostly female audience, which is not diverse. I don’t think that would even be a question if it attracted a mostly male audience.

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      • Sanaa says:

        Good point.

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      • ... says:

        Hold up, treasury decided that a feminist would only attract/ is only relevant to women? That is seriously concerning and pretty ignorant. Can anyone report back on who thought this? As a constituent I’d like to know.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878