Friday, August 24, 2007

Campus Speakers

My campus invites a variety of speakers to come to campus to speak to our community (on and off campus). I tend to encourage my students to go to at least one campus speaker, as part of my efforts to get them to try some of the variety of intellectual pursuits available around campus.

In the past several years, I've noticed a trend, coincident with the "student life" folks' growing emphasis on "alcohol education." Evidently, there's a huge market in "Hollywood Has-Beens with Substance Abuse Problems" who go on speaking tours every fall, travelling from college to college, university to university, expounding on the ills of alcohol and whatever other substances they really like(d).

If campus rumors are true, a recent Hollywood Has-Been who spoke on campus then went out drinking with some of the "student life" folks, ending up quite drunk in a local student bar. I must admit, I'm unconvinced that having a Hollywood Has-Been speak convinces any of our students not to drink underage or to excess, or not to try whatever the substance du jour is on campus.

This fall, we have a Hollywood Has-Been coming to campus. The other speaker is a child of a famous couple who's going to speak on an imaginary non-being. Think unicorns. And no, the speech isn't along the lines of "Unicorns in the Graphic Art of Medieval France," or "Popular Marketing and Unicorns: Lessons in Selling to Pre-Teen Girls." Nope, it's more along the lines of "Unicorns!"

Two speakers. What do these speakers contribute to the intellectual life of the university?

I called the appropriate office today to suggest a speaker (the guy who puts together PostSecret is now speaking on campuses; that could be way cool), and by the by mentioned my disappointment with the speakers for this term. The person on the other end of the line said that s/he'd heard a lot of complaints. I hope they listen to the complaints!

I won't be encouraging my students to go to these talks this semester, alas.

Does anyone know if there's even the slightest bit of evidence that the Hollywood Has-Been speaker model contributes anything to changing student drinking behavior?

Our students are utterly cynical about the Hollywood Has-Beens, cynical far beyond me.


  1. I can't imagine any speaker talking about student drinking would be all that effective in the long-term. The exception might be a talk in coordination with some sort of project related to student welfare, but ultimately I think they forget about it after a couple of days.

    As for unicorns...I'm not sure what to say and I work with texts that sometimes feature them. On-campus talks should be intellectually engaging in some way. If this is the type of thing we (as a community of scholars) present to students, how can we expect them to engage with their education in intellectually meaningful ways.

  2. Been meaning to ask you - can you recommend a good book that lists/explains the types of verse there are in English? (What's a villanelle and all the different kinds of meter and all that?)

    Believe me, you do not want to go into your average large chain bookstore and ask for something like this. The "help" you get will make you murderous.