The Numbers Have Changed, But The Song Stays The Same

In the last print edition, the Western Carolinian printed an editorial concerning the new local tuition increase and the amount of money spent on the Chancellor’s Speaker Series.

The amount for Lech Walesa was wrong. According to the Chancellor’s Office, Walesa did not cost any more than $20,000, fee and expenses included.

I apologize, and have now corrected the mistake.

Even with this new information, which was sent to us very quickly after the editorial was printed, the issue does not change. Regardless of how much Walesa was paid, the Chancellor’s Speaker Series as a whole still takes a lot of money that could very well be used for other things that could better benefit the students, the faculty and the staff.

The response to the editorial by both students and staff members was phenomenal, but I personally believe that if I had said Walesa was paid $10,000 or even less, people would have still agreed that the real issue is what we’re spending our money on.

There was a time when the Western Carolinian attacked the Chancellor’s Master Plan. The current editor of the Western Carolinian doesn’t have as much of a problem with the Master Plan as his predecessors did.

We’ve also butted heads with the administration for a long time about the Fine and Performing Arts Center, for which the state bond helped pay. We still have some concerns about that one. We don’t see it benefiting students as much as it does WCU’s image, similarly to the Speaker Series.

There are more and more examples over the years about renovations, new buildings and new programs or regulations that have either cost the students more or have spent the students’ and state taxpayers’ money in a way that some at the Western Carolinian have thought unwise.

I posed a challenge to SGA in my last editorial, asking them to introduce legislation to propose a fifty percent cut in the new local tuition.

After talking with Jesse Lyons, our Student Government President, I can see that Lyons has the students’ best interests at heart, perhaps more than I do. Lyons said that he had talked to Dr. John Bardo and Bardo told him that if the local tuition is cut, it will be cut equally across. This means that not only would funding for new staff be cut, but precious funding for need-based financial aid would be cut, as well.

I, personally, appreciate Lyons’ and SGA’s position on this. It’s understandable and certainly commendable.

However, the grand Fine and Performing Arts Center and its grand price tag of almost $25 million still haunts me.

And the price tags for the Chancellor’s Speaker Series haunts me.

The Chancellor’s Office failed to give an exact figure for Walesa’s visit to WCU, saying only that it was under $20,000.

Pocket change, right?

Nor could the Chancellor’s Office provide us with accurate figures on any other speakers who have visited in the past.

So, we can’t tell you what they’ve spent on various speakers, other than Bob Dole, who cost WCU $55,000.

What we can tell you is what some previous speakers typically charge, according to prices they’ve posted on their web-sites and various web-sites dedicated to public speakers.

Bob Dole was the first of the distinguished speakers to visit WCU and was paid $55,000. The fee Dole proposes on-line is between $30,000 and $60,000.

Jane Bryant Quinn, whom many students still have no idea as to what she does in society, visited WCU on October 4, 1999. Her fee is quoted on-line as being between $10,000 and $20,000, depending on how far she has to travel. This fee does not include any other expenses.

Jamie Clark came to Cullowhee on October 2, 2001. Clark’s fee is posted on-line as being between $15,000 and $20,000, once again, that doesn’t include other expenses.

Other speakers in the series have included J. Craig Venter, Arthur Caplan and Samuel Broder on April 16, 1999 when they discussed “Decoding the Human Genome.” We had three speakers for that event.

On February 9, 2000, actor Danny Glover and Felix Justice visited WCU, and were followed on February 15 by Senator John Edwards. If Dole charges as much as he does, how much was Edwards?

Three more speakers appeared at WCU later that year to discuss biodiversity. Daniel Janzen, Frederick Turner, and Matthew Kane were the key speakers at that event on March 15, 2000.

On October 4 of that same year, Pat Summitt came to speak. So, total for just the year of 2000, seven speakers came to WCU as part of the Chancellor’s Speaker Series.

That was, of course, not the end. On March 1, 2001, Alan M. Dershowitz came to speak at WCU, at an event entitled “Why Good Lawyers Defend Bad People.” What student got anything out of that? No matter what he said, the answer to the title is “money,” the very issue at hand in this editorial.

He was followed by Jamie Clark and Lech Walesa, and will be followed by former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. One can only guess what she’s going to talk about!

So, as you can see, Walesa is a drop in the bucket, so to speak. The administration replied quickly to my previous editorial, but the correction of the gross inaccuracy in my editorial does not even begin to diminish the true issue, as they may have hoped.

The issue here is that whether the local tuition gets cut or dropped or simply left alone, the students get the raw end. The local tuition goes to good causes. I’m not disputing that.

Yet, if we have money for a speaker series in the name of the chancellor, and a Fine and Performing Arts Center, both of whose main goal is to better the image of WCU, then we have money for need-based financial aid and more professors, without charging the students more on top of the tuition increase the state will no doubt incur.