Students react to limited access to see former president Bush speak this week on campus

Rachel Friedman, Campus Editor

Students have expressed discontent over the lack of availability for student tickets to attend the talk with former President George W. Bush speak at Vanderbilt March 11 as part of the Chancellor’s Lecture Series.

The university provided tickets to students, faculty and staff through randomized drawings. Of the available seats, half were reserved for students, and the remaining were give to staff and faculty, according to the form where interested members of the community could enter the drawing.

Additionally, the university also made available first-come first-serve tickets for overflow viewing in Light Hall 208. Second-year Hunter Skidmore said she will be entering the draw to watch the talk in this overflow location, but it is not the same experience, as she can “see him on TV all the time.”

Skidmore emphasized the proportional disparity between students and staff and faculty on campus, so it seemed unfair to provide equal seats to the two groups.

“Most students are here for only four years and have a limited window for these types of opportunities in this environment, especially with someone as famous as a former president,” Skidmore said.

Vanderbilt College Republicans President Ryan Brown reiterated the limited time frame that students have to see the impressive speakers that come to campus – a limitation that may not necessarily be an issue for the staff and faculty who will make up half of the audience.

“I have confidence in the Chancellor’s office and what they’re doing. I would also probably say that I think the emphasis – if it’s not already – should be on making sure that students can go and see these speakers because they’re the ones who are paying to go here,” Brown said. “This is what the Vanderbilt experience all about. I think that the mission of the Chancellor’s office and bringing these great speakers here for the lecture series is that they want students to have these opportunities. So I commend them for that, but I guess it would be great to go the extra mile.”

The most frustrating part for first-year Brogan Dice is the lack of preference given to students in related majors. As a political science student, he said it is especially unfair that he will not be allowed to attend the event with the former president.

Those interested in attending the talk were invited to enter the randomized drawing between Feb. 25 and 26, and those who received tickets were notified March 1 via email. Those who did not receive tickets were notified via email March 4. The email said that there will be a second randomized draw for tickets by March 8. The university was closed over Vanderbilt’s spring break and has not responded to request for comment.

The university also announced regulations that there is no videography, photography or note-taking allowed at the event. According to the university, these policies are intended to foster a more candid and informal discussion. These policies are not in place for every Chancellor’s Lecture guest.

The next installment of the Chancellor Lecture Series will be March 19 with Stacey Abrams. Ticketing information for that event has not yet been released.

Despite the general frustration among students who don’t have tickets, there is a silver lining to the expressed discontent, Brown said.

“I think the one thing is that to see how passionate people are about wanting to see President Bush, I think it’s a really great sign for our campus. And I think it shows that people want to hear from a range of voices, which at elite universities now, we see at other campuses where that’s not really the case,” Brown said. “It’s really a great testament to the ideological tolerance that’s on the campus and that people are ideologically hungry. They want to hear different opinions and they want to test their own belief systems.”

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