Russell Simmons draws lukewarm reaction

Clothing designer, hip-hop mogul and co-founder of Def Jam Records Russell Simmons will be coming to campus to speak for Fall South 40 Week.

The event will take place in Graham Chapel on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. as part of a week- long schedule of Congress of the South 40 programming. Tickets are free and open to the entire student body.

Despite Simmons’ reputation in the entertainment industry, student organizers said he was selected because of his social activism, including his involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement and enthusiasm for self-help.

“I’m thrilled to be able to introduce such an amazing and accomplished man as Russell Simmons,” sophomore and CS40 Director of Services Victoria Hulsing said. “Simmons is a major advocate of personal happiness, and I feel that a lot of students need to strive for a better understanding and sound grounding with their own personal happiness.”

Simmons’s presentation will focus on four main points: his take on today’s hip-hop culture, his childhood and how he established himself in the business world, his routine to maintain his own happiness and his social activism.

Additionally, he will address his support of the gay rights movement, his veganism and his unique yoga practices, intended to boost his personal happiness.

Plans for determining the speaker began over the summer. After choosing Simmons from a list of many suggestions, the CS40 officers arranged a date with his agent.

“Of course the process of getting such a big name celebrity to come to campus was difficult,” Hulsing said. “To say the least, I was extremely happy when I received the email that my contract had been signed, and I’m very excited to see months of hard work pay off at the event.”

For some, last year’s CS40 fall speaker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, overshadows Simmons’ appearance on campus.

“It’s not something I’d go out of my way to go to. I waited in line for hours to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I probably wouldn’t do that for Russell Simmons,” junior Neha Nair said.

Some students said their lack of knowledge about Simmons would dissuade them from attending the event.

“I don’t know who Russell Simmons is. I don’t know much about him,” sophomore Andrew Green said. “I’d go, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt…[is] more interesting to me than Russell Simmons.”

Other students said his fame in the music industry makes Simmons an intriguing speaker.

“I’ll be interested to see what he talks about, and whether he’s just going to talk about his own success or if he’s going to try and give advice,” senior Lauren Nippoldt said. “I like hip-hop and rap music, so just the fact that he’s a big name in that industry, I’d be interested to hear what he has to say about it.”

Through a Twitter contest this fall, students can enter to win the chance to attend a private meet-and-greet session with Simmons. Students who tweet @WUCS40 and hashtag their posts with #WUUncleRUSH (Simmons’s Twitter name) with questions or comments will be entered into a drawing, and one winner will be awarded premium seating for two and a private meeting with Simmons.

In addition to the Simmons speech, several other events will take place during Fall South 40 week. Residential colleges will be planning their own events and the CS40 formal will take place at the Hyatt Regency on Oct. 26. The event will have a 1920s theme, rooftop dance floor and sushi bar.

“I’m really stoked for the whole week, and I think it’s going to be fantastic set of events for Wash. U. students,” sophomore and CS40 Speaker Marli Komarek said. “I think it will be eye-opening for a lot of people to hear [Simmons] speak and to learn his take on social issues and his overall story.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.