What do hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, Entourage star Adrian Grenier, and Sam Sifton, the national editor of The New York Times, have in common?
Well, if you guessed the three are scheduled to speak at Biscayne Bay Campus this semester then you’d be right.
Simmons will be the first to be featured as part of the SGA-BBC Lecture Series on Wednesday, Feb. 22, when he discusses “The Evolution of Hip-Hop and the Effects It Has on Society” in the WUC Ballrooms at BBC at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.
How, though, did the powers that be pick Simmons, Grenier and Sifton to come speak on campus this season?
“We look at what is hot and could be of interest to students in the coming year. There’s a lot of back and forth leading up to this spring series,” said Emilio Collyer Jr., vice president of the Student Government Association at BBC. “There’s a lot of emailing among committee members throughout the fall, with a wish list of speakers, and then with the agencies we work with for the bookings.”
Simmons, the legendary founder of the Def Jam record label and philanthropist, was chosen because of his leadership in the music industry, making him the perfect follow-up to last-year’s successful lecture by Common.
Rafael Zapata is a longtime Campus Life staff member who serves as advisor to the Student Government Association. In his role, he helps coordinate meetings and balances the lecture series’ operational budget, which is approximately $47,000 this year. He offers guidance as Collyer negotiates dates and contracts, which he ultimately signs off on, and helps out wherever needed.
“One time I had to drive Al Sharpton to the airport,” Zapata said. “It was cool because we had a police escort there, but after, I was on my own again. That wasn’t as fun. But it’s all part of being a good host.”
Both Collyer and Zapata say the SGA-BBC Lecture Series is a complement to the teaching that takes place in the classroom.
“We get really good feedback from students who come out and listen to the people we bring to campus,” Collyer said. “There’s a misconception out there that Panthers come to class and go home, but whenever we offer an opportunity to stick around, they take it.”
“Students get really into it,” Zapata said. “When Common came, some students were crying in the ballroom, seeing one of their idols. At the end of the day, they take away a lot from a story they hear their favorite singer tell because it really means something to them.”
Lest you think bringing all these high-profile individuals to FIU poses the kind of logistical headaches like the ones you read on the tabloids, organizers say speakers have historically been cooperative with the university.
“The only ‘crazy’ requests we get – which are reasonable – are about food,” Collyer said. “Sometimes we have vegetarians or vegans come on campus, so they ask for food they can eat. And for a restroom they can use in private so they don’t get approached by fans.”
SGA-BBC Lecture Series – Who, When Where
“The Evolution of Hip-Hop and the Effects It Has on Society”
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), WUC Ballrooms
The star of HBO’s Entourage will discuss his 2010 Sundance Film Festival hit Teenage Paparazzo, to explore the meaning of celebrity and images, during a lecture titled “The Teenage Paparazzo Experience.”
Wednesday, March 7, 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), WUC Ballrooms
As the presidential election heats up, the national editor of The New York Times will discuss “Election 2012: How The New York Times Covers the Run for the Presidency” as part of the New York Times Leadership Program at FIU.
Thursday, March 22, 1:30 p.m. (doors open at 1 p.m.), Mary Ann Wolfe Theatre