ULS aware of low interest

University Lecture Series: All major universities have one, but the ability to make them popular rests in the speakers a campus can draw and afford. Florida Gulf Coast University is drawing top names for top dollar, and USF wants to do the same.

“We want to take our speakers to the next level,” ULS chair Michael Crump said. “We want more prominent speakers so that we get better attendance.”

USF’s lecture series has been struggling to draw a crowd, so there is a push from both the Office of Student Affairs and Student Government to get higher-profile speakers. SG cabinet member Whitney Griffin, director of creative industries, is spearheading the initiative.

“Right now, we are in the process for looking for various speakers that we could afford,” Griffin said.

The ULS, in its current format, sponsors eight to 10 speakers a year among whom it must spread its 2005-2006 budget of $269,113, made up of student fees. If the total number of speakers were to be cut in half, ULS could afford bigger names.

“Senate President Frank Harrison and I have been talking about how we feel (about) rather than sponsoring several mediocre speakers throughout the year, we could sponsor one or two big speakers each year,” Griffin said.

Griffin said that FGCU was her major example when she presented this initiative to the senate. FGCU is hosting Mikhail Gorbachev and just hosted Maya Angelou, prominent people USF would like to see here on campus.

“It would bring us closer to our goal of being Tampa’s university by making people realize the University is here and is not only here for students, but can be used by people in the surrounding area,” Griffin said.

FGCU ULS chair Lien Bragg said that her university has been utilizing ULS for the purpose of promotion, making it one of the only campuses in Florida to host such outstanding speakers.

“We wanted to bring in speakers that could really broaden conversation,” Bragg said. “Having these speakers coming in (and) wanting to be a part of our institution, it really elevates our prominence as we continue to grow as a university.”

Crump supports a smaller list of lecturers, but is concerned about where ULS can present its speakers.

“It is going to be a challenge for us. We were hoping in the next academic year to move toward five or six speakers instead of the eight or 10 that we do now, but the challenge is that the Special Events Center is coming down,” Crump said.

Renovations for the new Phyllis P. Marshall Center are slated to begin in the spring with the demolition of the SEC.

The loss of this mid-capacity forum will leave ULS with venues such as the Marshall Center ballroom, the Corral and the Sun Dome, which have respective capacities of 300, 900 and 10,000. This could force ULS to either host a speaker that will draw many or a host someone with less pull and risk running out of seating.

Despite roadblocks, ULS is moving in a direction it hopes will create a following that can fill seats and spark conversation.