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OPINION: (UN)LIMITING ATTENDANCE

Dean's Lecture Series brings larger crowd than expected.

By Diamondback Editorial Board, Diamondback

Lackluster student attendance at university events — namely football games or men's basketball games not involving Duke — has recently drawn the ire of some observers, but dwindling attendance at athletic events doesn't necessarily mean student apathy is on the upswing.

As evidence, look no further than last week's visit by Noam Chomsky. The event, part of the arts and humanities college's Dean's Lecture Series, excited students across the campus, and rightfully so: Chomsky is a world-renowned linguist, philosopher and political activist whose viewpoints are as highly cited as they are debated.

Nearly 2,000 people attended lectures given by Chomsky on Thursday and Friday, but officials claim hundreds more were turned away from packed rooms at Stamp Student Union and Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, respectively.

It's encouraging to see high demand for such an event, but disheartening to know so many failed to gain admittance because of limited space — especially since this isn't the first time demand has exceeded availability for an intellectual event.

Last April, Richard Dawkins, a famous evolutionary biologist and author, spoke to an audience of nearly 1,000 in Stamp's Grand Ballroom. The event, presented by the student organization Society of Inquiry, was shifted to a new location after an overwhelming student response. But even with a larger venue and allotment of free tickets, the speech was a sellout, and students turned to the event's Facebook page with offers to buy and sell tickets.

Students at a state flagship university shouldn't have to pay to attend lectures of an academic nature, nor should they ever be turned away from an event due to inadequate space.

The same can be said of less intellectually rigorous events. Last fall's concert by Mac Miller, held in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp, reportedly sold out in less than a minute. As with the Dawkins event, students flooded the event's Facebook page with requests to purchase tickets. Others complained that Student Entertainment Events — which organized the concert — should move the show to a larger venue.

This editorial board wonders why event organizers would ever limit themselves to a particular venue without first gauging student interest. SEE previously held concerts — Matisyahu and Girl Talk, to name a couple — in Cole Field House, so the group should have anticipated similar demand for an up-and-coming artist (or flavor-of-the-month, depending on your take) such as Mac Miller. Organizers of the Dawkins event were wise to upgrade facilities, but even the Grand Ballroom proved too small to meet student demand.

Admittedly, there exists a dearth of 1,000-seat venues on the campus. Stamp's Grand Ballroom,CSPAC's Dekelboum Concert Hall and the Riggs Alumni Center's Orem Alumni Hall all topout between capacities of 900 and 1,100. The next-largest possibilities seem to be Ritchie Coliseum and Cole Field House, with available seating for 1,700 and around 15,000, respectively. A sports venue may seem like an awkward location for something like an academic lecture, but it's unlikely the hundreds turned away from last week's lectures would mind.

This editorial board commends the Dean's Lecture Series committee for bringing Chomsky to the campus, and we look forward to the series' next event: an appearance by university alumnus, creator of acclaimed HBO series The Wire and former editor in chief of this publication — David Simon. But will there be enough room at the March 1 event, given it's set to be held in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall atCSPAC — a venue with only 300 seats? See you there, we hope.

Date of Publication: 
1/30/12