SU to bring diverse group of speakers to WU
Ellen Page, Jessica Williams and Eddie Huang are among seven speakers and a panel that received over $200,000 from Student Union after more than seven hours of debate.
These celebrities, along with other well-known personalities, are a part of the planned lineup for SU’s annual Speaker Series, which helps student groups sponsor lectures on a variety of issues.
Most Speaker Series events are free and open to the general public, although Page, whose appeal came from women’s empowerment group OWN IT Wash U, is planned as the keynote speaker at November’s OWN IT summit, which students will have to purchase a $20 ticket to.
This year’s series will also include Paul Farmer, David Axelrod, Rick Famuyiwa, Eli Claire and a Pride Alliance panel made up of activists Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Ka’Milla McMiller, Bamby Salcedo and CeCe McDonald.
The speakers are contacted and booked by student groups, who then present their proposals to the SU Treasury in the annual debate that took place Saturday.
Senior Hunter Malasky, speaker of SU Treasury, ran this year’s debate and felt that, despite its length, it was an efficient discussion.
“The debate went from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., although I think that’s actually a record for Student Union,” Malasky said. “Last year, we went from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., so it was great that we were able to have a full discussion and still get it done in a reasonable amount of time.”
The debate started with groups presenting, one by one, their speaker selections. Groups presenting included Ability, African Students Association, Ashoka, Black Anthology, Chinese Students Association, Delta Sigma Pi, GlobeMed, Harambee Christian Ministries, OWN IT: WashU, Pride Alliance and Washington University Political Review.
Senior Claudia Vaughan, co-founder of OWN IT: Wash U, believes that the primary goal in these presentations was clarity.
“We really just wanted to make sure Student Union understood the amount of planning that has gone into this on our end,” Vaughan said. “We also tried to really get across just what OWN IT is and what we’re about, because as a relatively new organization on campus not everyone knows about us yet.”
After the presentations were complete, debate began about which student group bids should be funded.
“We really try to make sure that all of the student groups get talked about and considered,” Malasky said. “Each one of these groups has put in a lot of time and effort to bring these proposals to the Student Union, and I was really happy to see that every proposal was considered and debated.”
After debate on each item, treasury representatives could either vote to add it to the final ballot or table it for later discussion.
While most speakers were either widely supported or quickly sent back to the original list, a few caused serious debate.
“The most highly contested speakers were Salman Khan of Khan Academy and Ellen Page,” Malasky said. “We ended up not funding Salman Khan, I think largely because the representatives felt that the price tag to bring him in was a barrier to other groups.”
Page, however, was funded after a long and contentious debate.
“Claudia [Vaughan] started crying when they finally decided to fund Ellen, and then I started crying,” OWN IT’s speaker coordinator and senior Sharon Josephs said. “Our proposal made it on the final ballot by one vote. It was nine to eight.”
“I think it’s going to be a fantastic lineup, and we feel extremely fortunate to be a part of that,” Vaughan said. “There wasn’t a single person we didn’t want to go and see. I’m just extremely excited to go to all of these events.”
Some speakers are not yet confirmed to be coming to campus. However, this is typical of the Speaker Series, and Malasky said student groups do their best to ensure that the proposed date for their speaker allows for the highest probability of success, and SU works with the groups to reduce the chance of cancellation.
Additional reporting by Alex Siegman.