Assembly Series lineup announced: Students look forward to spring semester visits from Jon Huntsman, Sheryl WuDunn, others

Celebrating its 60th year with a roster including celebrities, noted scientists and social activists, Washington University announced its spring 2014 Assembly Series schedule on Monday.

Speakers announced include Sheryl WuDunn, founder of the Half the Sky movement, politician Jon Huntsman and Joe Pantoliano, who played Ralphie on “The Sopranos” and is now an advocate for mental health awareness.

The series is intended to provide intellectual opportunities that bring the St. Louis community onto the Danforth Campus, but the most notable speeches in this semester’s lineup are actually funded by Student Union, with most spots reserved for students.

All speaker events funded by SU guarantee at least 85 percent of the seats to be reserved for students and are only given to community members if there is not sufficient undergraduate interest. SU Treasury allocated about $70,000 in student activity fee money for WuDunn, Huntsman and Pantoliano.

“We used to give a bunch of money to Assembly Series and then let them decide what to do with it, and we had no say in the process,” senior Sean Janda, speaker of the SU Treasury, said. “Three years ago, we decided we wanted to have more control with that money so we [established] SU Speaker Series.”

Student Union partners with the Barbara Rea, director of the Assembly Series, to handle the logistics of bringing speakers it funds to come to campus, Janda said. Rea decides whom to list as part of the University Assembly Series based on the expected academic merit of the speakers’ addresses.

Rea could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

One speaker, Huntsman, was funded on a Treasury appeal by the Washington University Political Review last spring. Unbeknownst to WUPR and SU, the Alumni Association was in talks with Huntsman about appearing as a special guest speaker at Founders Day in the fall of 2013 as the speakers for that event are usually kept secret. SU was informed after it approved the petition that Huntsman would likely be speaking in the fall, which he eventually did.

Although Huntsman spoke last semester, WUPR editor-in-chief and senior Moira Moynihan is confident that his speech this spring will serve a different audience.

“The last event was primarily for donors. This will be an address aimed at students,” Moynihan said.

Sophomore Geena Kandel said she was excited to hear neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel, to whom she is not related, speak.

“I’m looking forward to his visit. He’s accomplished so much in his field, and I think that Wash. U. students are lucky to have the amazing opportunity to see him,” Geena Kandel said.

The 12 speeches run from Feb. 4 to April 17, though the speaker for the April 10 Skandalaris Center Lecture on Social Entrepreneurship has yet to be announced.

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