College paying big bucks for recent big-name speakers

, and the Multi-Cultural Lecture Series spent almost all of its $15,000 budget on speakers this year.

The speakers included author and political theorist Benjamin Barber, who spoke at the College last semester and Naomi Tutu, program coordinator for the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, who will be speaking at the College in March. These lecturers cost between $6,000 and $8,000.

When former Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa spoke at the College in 2001, he charged a $15,000 speaking fee and an additional $3,000 for transportation.

Often, popular comedians who perform in Kendall Hall also charge as much as $15,000.

“It’s just the rates at which these people are going,” Ren?e Marchioni, chairperson of the Student Finance Board (SFB) said.

“If a big name is coming to the College and he wants to stay at the Ritz, we’ve got to pay for the Ritz or we won’t get him,” she added.

According to Ted Repetti, CUB’s director of finance, the average speaker costs $7,500.

However, CUB director Kasey Snyder said speakers are usually willing to negotiate their rates.

The speaker’s agent will give CUB an asking price, which includes fees for transportation and room and board.

CUB members can sometimes bring that price down about $1,000.

The negotiations can be “very frustrating,” Snyder said, but also “sometimes surprisingly easy.”

She cited comedian Mark Curry, who performed at the College last semester, as a case of the latter.

He asked for a $5,000 speaking fee and only an extra $500 for travel expenses. Snyder said that most comedians who come to campus sell out their shows.

Repetti added that the closer the speaker is to the College, the more smoothly negotiations go.

“If someone’s in New York, they’re a lot more flexible than someone in L.A.,” he said.

A speaker from Los Angeles will ask you for airfare, he said.

Repetti said that the best time to bring a speaker to the College is when the speaker is on tour in the surrounding area.

In that case, the speaker will often ask for a flat transportation rate, which is sometimes as little as $300, from each of the venues he visits, as was the case with recent guest lecturer Chuck D, of former rap group Public Enemy.

Assistant Dean of Student Life Magda Manetas, who convenes the committee of the College’s Multicultural Lecture Series, reported that the fees of many speakers have dropped in recent years.

“There are quite a lot of people who we would be proud to bring to campus that we feel we can afford,” Manetas said.

The speaking price for comedy legend Bill Cosby, who is coming to the College in April, is undisclosed.

Repetti said that the guest lecturers are often “entertaining and enriching.”

What really matters is if the College is getting its money’s worth.

Manetas sees the Multicultural Lecture Series as a way to expose students to important topics and different cultures.