Last fall we had the presidential election, the debate on campus and the Dalai Lama to keep the discourse at UM alive. This spirited conversation became somewhat muted during the spring semester except for a little spike at the end when Spike Lee gave the senior convocation speech.
The current school year could have continued the downward spiral into silent students, but the University is making a true attempt to keep its students, faculty and staff supplied with fodder for intellectually stimulating conversation.
With both Salman Rushdie and Ralph Reed lecturing within a week of one another, UM students have proven that we don’t need nationally televised events to create a great turnout. Now we challenge the University to continue bringing in speakers who will elicit passionate responses-and in some cases, protests.
Whether these speakers are brought in through President Shalala’s influence or with lecture-series money, the price is well worth the experience and opportunity it gives the campus community. From our standpoint, speakers need not be famous names. While this may help elevate UM in the public eye and looks great on brochures sent to prospective students, we would much rather have someone who doesn’t need a written out speech and that is engaging, funny and incisive with their comments over someone who is nationally or internationally recognized.
While this lack of fame may not create quite the same turnout as the Dalai Lama at the packed-to-capacity Convocation Center, the quality of the speech is more important than the venue and attendance of the event.
Speakers represent what a university environment should be about-introducing new ideas and creating debate. Whether or not one agrees with these ideas, having them out there and available to the campus is an integral part of the education that we pay so much for.
If it takes further soliciting of funds from alumni to continue to increase the number of speakers coming to campus then so be it. The reputation of a university increases the worth of a degree, so it will be a worthwhile investment.