Back in front of a live audience, the University Lecture Series (ULS) will return to in-person lectures beginning October after more than a year of hosting speakers online.
The first in-person ULS will take place Oct. 14 in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The speaker, who hasn’t been announced yet, will get paid $26,500 for a one-hour, in-person lecture, according to Student Programs Coordinator for the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) Isabelle Arroyo-Acevedo.
Arroyo-Acevedo said she hopes to announce the upcoming ULS speaker by next week. The location had yet to be confirmed as of Sept. 24, but Arroyo-Acevedo said it will most likely be in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom due to its “convenient location.”
“For us to be able to announce the speaker, we have to have approval from the agency, so it really just depends on when the official agency gives us the approval, and a lot of that depends on the contract,” she said. “Hopefully in about a week, but it really just depends on the agency.”
Last year, the Campus Activities Board (CAB) hired actress Diane Guerrero, best known for her roles in “Orange Is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin,” to speak for $25,000 Nov. 16 via Microsoft Teams.
The total budget for the 2021-22 academic year allocated for ULS is $165,758, of which $131,758 is designated for speaker fees, $30,000 for vendors and $4,000 for marketing purposes, according to Arroyo-Acevedo. The vendors’ fees cover costs associated with hiring photographers, American Sign Language interpreters and live captioning, as well as renting venues for the event.
Around 60% of the budget for ULS is allocated in the spring, while 40% is for the fall semester, Arroyo-Acevedo said. The reason behind it, she said, is due to a higher number of lectures in the spring semester, ranging from three to four lectures compared to two or three in fall, as well as larger events taking place during each semester.
The number for fall speakers, however, is still not confirmed, according to Arroyo-Acevedo, due to negotiations and scheduling.
“We do not have any confirmed right now,” she said. “We’re still in the process of confirming for later on in the semester.”
The process to select a ULS speaker begins through a survey sent out to students so they can vote on which artists and celebrities they would like to see featured. For the upcoming ULS, students had the chance to vote on speakers including co-host of ABC’s “The View” Ana Navarro, “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” star Anthony Ramos, former Senior Adviser to President Barack Obama Cecilia Muñoz and former NASA astronaut José Hernández.
The artists included in the survey, according to Arroyo-Acevedo, are shared by around six talent agencies based on budget, topic and theme of the lecture as well as the speaker’s availability. Some of the talent agencies CAB works with include Keppler Speakers, United Talent Agency, ICM Speakers, Gotham Artists and Creative Artists Agency.
“For a lecture, we really tried to make sure it’s current issues or current topics … that students might be interested in,” Arroyo-Acevedo said.
“Once we get that list, our full [CAB] team, which is about 22 or so students, [will] identify people who we think would have a very meaningful and educational lecture but also a good balance of fun for students to come to, and then we will create the actual survey.”
Besides voting on preselected speakers, students also get to suggest who should be featured in future lectures. Once the survey is completed, CAB will then begin making its selection and negotiating with the agencies.
Capacity at each lecture and ticket availability is still pending the contract’s approval, according to Arroyo-Acevedo. Students will get to reserve free tickets through BullsConnect prior to the event.
Those who secure their tickets will get priority seating while students who don’t have one on the day of the event will still have an opportunity to get a seat on a first-come first-serve basis based on the number of remaining seats available.
Arroyo-Acevedo said each speaker chooses whether they want a moderator or to give a lecture on a speech structure. If they select a moderator-style lecture, then CAB will create a list of potential candidates and vote among themselves on the best fit based on background and experience. The final selection will then be sent to the speaker for approval.
Meet and greet opportunities as well as VIP receptions will potentially return for a small selection of guests, according to Arroyo-Acevedo, but still pending confirmation on the contract.
“Ideally, we always try to have one [VIP reception] mostly because I think that’s just a unique experience for students to be able to meet the speaker beforehand,” she said. “I can’t officially confirm because we’re still working through contracts, but we do expect and anticipate to have some.”
Due to COVID-19, Arroyo-Acevedo said booking speakers has become challenging as some might not feel comfortable with certain state regulations on mask wearing and vaccinations.
“It could potentially be a little bit more challenging to book speakers, mostly because some of the agencies we work with share that some people might not feel comfortable coming to a university or coming to a state that doesn’t necessarily require mask wearing [and] doesn’t require vaccinations,” she said.
Though not required, Arroyo-Acevedo said CAB’s team will be encouraging the use of face coverings during events.
With in-person ULS making a comeback after a year of online lectures, Arroyo-Acevedo said she is eager for new and returning students to experience and interact with speakers live.
“What students can look forward to is really just having that exciting in-person lecture experience again,” Arroyo-Acevedo said. “We got a lot of feedback again and I think students are definitely excited to have it in person.”