Campus Speakers and Class

As for campus speakers, the real problem is not that some weirdo came to speak at Berkeley but that the absolute majority of departments in the Humanities have not been able to invite any speakers for years. 

Students don’t even know why. 

“We don’t ever have any speakers at this department!” they exclaim.

“We’d love to invite people,” I say. “But we don’t get funding even for a secretary, let alone for speakers.” 

Students are stunned. They honestly had no idea.

This is what I call class consciousness. We don’t exist even to our own minds. 


9 thoughts on “Campus Speakers and Class”

    1. It would be of enormous help if students protested or signed a petition demanding action on this from the administration. So, so SO helpful that would be.

      But I don’t see it happening.


      1. I would also be ecstatically happy if the students complained about the absence of a departmental secretary because she is supposed to serve two departments at once (on the grand salary of $24,000 per year) and never manages to do anything because no human being could in this situation.


        1. I don’t understand how we are supposed to recruit and retain students if there is never anybody at the reception to answer the basic questions. It’s so annoying! And everybody just accepted it like it’s the way things are supposed to be.


  1. I didn’t know that either! Wonder if it’s true at my university, where student groups manage to get funding to bring in speakers. Wouldn’t surprise me considering the way Kasich’s been slashing education funding, but I’ll have to research.


  2. At a lot of small, liberal arts colleges–like mine–there is basically no money at all for any department to bring in an outside speaker. My school might be able to bring in a local/regional speaker for a couple of university-wide events during the academic year, but that’s it. We just don’t have the money in the budget for it.


  3. The situation at your department is sad – when I was a student, our secretary was of great help to me many times.

    I started to think about university speakers in general and, first of all, I do not understand why any university should pay huge sums of money to some controversial celebrity like Ann Hart Coulter, or to some entrepreneur like Bill Gates (I do not believe a lecture will greately help students to become entrepreneurs themselves), or …

    Shouldn’t universities be about knowledge, analyzing the world, rather than propaganda or “here are 101 tricks to become rich like me”? For instance, I would invite Richard Dawkins to talk about evolution, but not about his atheism. And I am an atheist myself.

    I understand the idea of exposure to different ideas, but how many students really come to those many lectures and what do they get out of it except entertainment? I think those two questions do need to be asked before inviting anybody anywhere.

    I do understand the value of inviting an expert in your field to talk to students about Spain, for instance. Only – if I spent a significant sum of money, I would’ve made the attendance compulsory.

    As for not having money for outside speakers, the only solution I could imagine – a very unpopular one – would be to make it compulsory for tenured academics to give X public talks per year at some other university. Of course, the talks would be in their fields of expertise.


    1. I don’t want to invite Bill Gates. I want to invite a professor to give a scholarly talk. The cost is tiny and is limited to the transportation and a restaurant meal.

      But forcing academics to do that on their own dime would mean another paycut for them. That’s cruel and counterproductive.


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