Harry Belafonte, David Shuster and Eleanor Clift have all appeared as speakers at Rider in the past three weeks. They are three high-profile, well-respected professionals in their fields. Belafonte has been involved with politics, entertainment and more in his lifetime. Shuster has been a political reporter for 20 years, working for CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Clift is also a political reporter, as well as a published author who is known for her support of women in politics.
Overall, Rider has improved the quality of the speakers it has had on campus. But it needs to do a better job in promoting them. And the administration should put greater emphasis on attracting more big-name speakers to both campuses. It’s one thing to tell students that someone is coming to speak, but it’s quite another to properly promote them. The Belafonte speech, for example, was poorly attended. This could be because some people didn’t know he was coming, but it is likely many more didn’t know who he was. Belafonte gave a very interesting speech on everything that he has seen in his life. He has been an actor, civil rights activist, janitor, singer and even helped found the Peace Corps. Students missed out on the chance to hear Belafonte speak because they may have thought to themselves, “I don’t know who that is, so why would I go hear him talk?”
For the Shuster and Clift speeches, there were good-sized crowds, most likely because it is nearing election season, and student voters want to hear about the issues. But still, those two people have witnessed a lot in their careers. Anyone who is interested in politics will have heard one or both of their names before and would want to go to the speech.
We have had famous speakers in the past. Two years ago, Evan Handler (Sex and the City) came to speak about his battle with cancer. Last April, students heard former 98 Degrees singer Drew Lachey talk about his career and give advice for aspiring performers. But these kinds of speakers didn’t necessarily appeal to everyone. Actually, they were more appealing to the female population than the male students. But this semester, the speakers are more diverse and enjoyable to a broader group on campus. It’s nearly impossible to find someone that everyone is going to want to see, but Rider has done a better job of addressing the interests of more of its students.
We realize that budgets sometimes restrict who we can get to speak. According to Dave Keenan, director of campus life, there is a good balance of paid and volunteer speakers. Organizations such as the University Lecture Series Committee and the Student Entertainment Council, as well as academic departments, have budgets they must stay within when scheduling events. But the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics does well with volunteer speakers. In the case of Shuster, he was not paid a speaking fee, but was given money to cover his travel costs. It all comes down to who we can afford, but getting volunteer speakers does allow us to get more people here to talk.
Also, maybe the University — either the administration or Student Government Association — could conduct a survey to find out what kind of speakers students would be interested in — political, popular culture, etc., so that attendance would increase. Individual departments should continue to find exciting lectures for students and faculty members to go to. If there are speeches or maybe even advice/Q&A sessions about topics of interest to the students or faculty, more people would go.
Since the start of the semester, there has been someone for everyone to enjoy listening to. It really makes us curious as to who we will get to hear from next. All we have to do now is let students and faculty know when speakers are coming and what it is they have to offer.
This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.