ULS events reduced to one per semester to improve attendance

The decision comes after last year’s events saw lower-than-hoped attendance, Campus Activities Board coordinator Hannah Sutherland said. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

Campus Activities Board (CAB) is now hosting one University Lecture Series (ULS) speaker – instead of the usual two – each semester this academic year in order to bring more recognizable names to USF, CAB coordinator Hannah Sutherland said.

Sutherland said low ULS attendance last year sparked the decision to make a change. She said by reducing the number of speakers each semester, CAB will be able to put its budget into higher profile people that will potentially draw larger crowds.

ULS is an event hosted by CAB that features celebrities, activists and other recognizable names to speak to students in a Q&A-style session. A moderator typically prepares a list of questions for the majority of the hour-long talk, while the last 15 minutes are reserved for audience questions.

Attendance numbers for the ULS lectures were inconsistent last school year. About 65 people attended a ULS event last spring featuring the relatives of George Floyd. Roughly 40 people showed up to see actor and musician Jai Rodriguez speak last fall, while 214 people were in attendance of “Jurassic Park” actor BD Wong’s ULS during the same semester. 

Speakers with higher name recognition have proven to be beneficial for CAB in the past. Actress Stephanie Beatriz, known for her roles in ‘Encanto’ and ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ saw 770 students show up for her spring 2022 ULS. Likewise, ‘Stranger Things’ star David Harbour attracted over 800 students during his fall 2019 ULS.

The annual ULS budget for this year is about $150,000. Sutherland said the budget hasn’t decreased, but the amount allocated for each speaker will be greater than previous years.

The price tag for each speaker has fluctuated in the past. Beatriz received $36,500 and Harbour was paid $39,700 for their talks, while Rodrigues got $25,000 and the two relatives of Floyd received $15,000 total.

Student input also played a factor in the decision, Sutherland said. CAB conducted an assessment by creating two focus groups, which included about 30 students. Half had attended a ULS before and the other half had not.

The results from the focus groups indicated that students felt the speakers were not very recognizable, which discouraged them from attending. Sutherland said that because CAB’s budget made it difficult to secure four big-name celebrities per year, the responses from these focus groups encouraged the decision to cut down to two speakers.

Sutherland said this fall’s lecture will occur in November. CAB will reveal the name of the speaker after Homecoming Week, which ends Oct. 14, she said.