ULS announces lecture lineups

Scattered throughout the school year are opportunities for students to get up close and personal with prominent figures via the University Lecture Series (ULS), which will undergo changes this season.

Yesterday, the ULS Board of Directors announced the fall 2011 and spring 2012 lineup, which will feature CBS News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan, social activist Marc Lamont Hill and the cast of MTV’s “The Buried Life.” Hip-hop artist and actor Common kick-starts the series with a lecture Sept. 26 at 8 p.m.

With four lectures in all, as opposed to last year’s nine, ULS aims to feature higher profile individuals with a greater “significance in society,” said Center for Student Involvement Director Kristie Gerber.

Some of these higher caliber speakers required a greater percentage of the ULS budget, Gerber said, which limited the number of events it could afford to host. However, the ULS budget for the 2011-12 academic year is $215,180 in student-paid Activity and Service fees – down $38,000 from last year, Gerber said.

“You won’t see as much of the reality TV stars,” Gerber said. “(The ULS Board) looked at what they felt might be more important to college students, sort of newsworthy stories or newsworthy people. They really heightened the type of individual they were bringing to campus.”

The ULS Board, which is comprised of six employed students, considered student feedback collected during the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters when booking this year’s speakers. Common won a Grammy award with Erykah Badu in 2003 for Best R&B Song and has performed in significant roles in films such as “Smokin’ Aces,” “American Gangster” and “Terminator Salvation.” The entertainer is an active supporter of PETA and is a member of the Knowing is Beautiful movement, which supports HIV and AIDS awareness.

He stirred controversy among conservatives in May after he received a White House invitation to a poetry event, despite a controversial 2007 YouTube video where he speaks about burning then-President George W. Bush and shooting the police, according to the Daily Caller.

Logan was in Cairo in February, reporting on the then-Egyptian uprisings against President Hosni Mubarak, when she was sexually assaulted by a mob following Mubarak’s resignation. She will appear Nov. 17 to meet the demand for a politically relevant speaker, the ULS Board statement said.

Hill is described on his website as a regular contributor to CNN and MSNBC, and has also been featured as a political contributor and guest on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” He hosts “Our World With Black Enterprise,” which airs on TV One and is an associate professor at Columbia University.

The ULS Board statement said he was voted one of America’s top 30 black leaders under 30 by Ebony Magazine in 2005 and will be the series’ Martin Luther King Jr. Week spotlight speaker Jan. 19.

Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Duncan Penn and Jonnie Penn from MTV’s “The Buried Life” were booked for an April 17 lecture because they encourage viewers to achieve their goals in a creative way, the ULS Board said. The show centers on the four friends who travel the world in pursuit of checking off items on a list of 100 things to do before you die, according to mtv.com.

“While discussing some of the items they’ve crossed off their bucket list, they provide an inspirational message to students who are about to end their academic year, or perhaps career, at USF,” said the ULS Board statement.

Gerber said another new feature to the ULS series will be a “distinguished speaker residency.” She said ULS hopes to bring about 10 speakers to campus for a two-day residency during the late fall semester. Speakers will go to academic classrooms and residency halls, as well as have lunch with students. Details on how to participate in the program and which speakers will be involved have not yet been decided.

“(They will be) sort of more local to Tampa folks,” Gerber said. “People who have done some really good work in Tampa … who can bring a message to our students. Like if we could get the head of a bank to talk to a finance class.”

Each lecture will be held in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom. The Oval Theatre will serve as overflow seating, with a live feed of each lecture. For more information on ULS and updates on future events, students can visit the ULS Facebook page at fb.com/UniversityLectureSeries.