SU, OWN IT aim to make Ellen Page speech free for students

| Staff Reporter

Student Union Speaker Series’ most expensive speaker will be appearing at an event charging an entrance fee, but organizers and SU executives say they are working to ensure that Washington University students are able to hear Ellen Page’s speech free of charge.

OWN IT Wash U, a women’s empowerment group modeled after a group founded at Georgetown University, appealed for funding to bring Page to campus for its November summit. Students will have to pay a $15 entrance fee for the event.

SU requires that 85 percent of the attendees at any event they help fund are undergraduates, Vice President of Finance and junior Kenneth Sng said. However, OWN IT was aware of the requirement and stressed that it would not be a problem in its original presentation.

Sng also explained that Speaker Series provided OWN IT with an avenue to get an expensive speaker that the group would otherwise not be able to afford, as regular appeals to Treasury have a cap amount much lower than Page’s fee.

This year, around $200,000 was allocated to fund speakers from eight different student groups. The amount allocated to Speaker Series is a portion allotted by SU’s vice president of finance from the student activities fee, which amounts to one percent of undergraduate tuition. A little over $52,000 was allocated for Page’s speech.

OWN IT and Student Union are currently looking for and considering different solutions to find a way to make Page’s talk free of cost to students.

Speaker of the Treasury and senior Hunter Malasky said that he and Jordan Finkelstein, SU’s president, met with OWN IT after Page’s speech was funded to discuss how to make it accessible to all undergraduates who wanted to attend.

One solution the groups are exploring is to make Page’s speech free of cost and open to the public, but require a ticket for the rest of the summit. The summit, however, will be housed in Bauer Hall, whose biggest venue, Emerson Auditorium, has a smaller capacity than spaces such as Graham Chapel.

Co-founder Claudia Vaughan and Speaker Coordinator Sharon Josephs, both seniors, had concerns about the proposed solution as they expressed worry that attendees who paid for the whole summit would not be able to see Page’s speech. However, they also do not want people to buy tickets solely to see Page and then not participate in the rest of the summit.

Malasky said other options being considered include moving the speech to Frick Forum, the central seating area in Knight and Bauer Halls, or having a live stream play in Frick Forum.

Vaughan emphasized that the group is trying to work with the Knight Center, which runs events in Bauer Hall, to open Page’s speech to the greatest number of people as possible.

“We’re definitely listening to SU’s concerns; we definitely heard what Hunter [Malasky] and the other SU members had to say. We’re trying to make it as big as we can make it,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan and Josephs also expressed hesitation about moving the speech to a bigger venue outside Bauer Hall because it would be difficult to move summit attendees from the new venue back to Bauer, where the rest of the event takes place.

“It’s something we have considered and I know there are other locations on campus that hold more people like Graham Chapel, but we booked our location over a year ago,” Vaughan said.

“It is something we’re considering,” she added. “We’re just trying to find what will accommodate the greatest number of people.”

Independently, OWN IT has raised over $15,000 for the summit. However, as the event is not for profit, all ticket fees go to cover an individual attendee’s expenses for the day, like food.

Both Malasky and Sng agreed that the way SU announced the speakers, without stipulating that Page’s speech—at present—will have an entrance fee, was not a mistake. Malasky said that more details are meant to come out as they are confirmed but that the original announcement was just to list who is planned to come to campus. Not all speakers have signed final contracts, as student groups are not allowed to confirm speakers until after they have been approved for funding.

When Treasury decided to fund OWN IT’s appeal for Ellen Page, they were aware that there would be an entrance fee for the event, Malasky said.

He stressed, however, that this is not unusual, as Treasury does fund events that students still have to pay for, but he still hopes to work something out with OWN IT to make the Ellen Page portion of the summit free.

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