While watching Matisyahu perform earlier this week, I started thinking about what other speakers have come to the University of Florida since my time here. While going through the names in my head, I quickly came to the conclusion that they have been overwhelmingly male.
You probably know that the organization that brings high-profile speakers to campus is the ACCENT Speaker's Bureau. It's the largest student-run speakers bureau in the country, and for some reason it has the second largest budget in student government — $407,100 this school year. This money comes out of students' activity and service fees. Its goal is to bring "prominent, controversial, and influential speakers" to UF.
I researched a little, and it turns out my conclusion was correct. On the "Past Speakers" page on the ACCENT website, I found out that only 22 percent of the speakers listed were female. This is excluding groups of people like the "Real World: New Orleans" cast. (Influential, really?)
More evidence can be found in this male-dominated video made by ACCENT. It seems like it’s trying to make the point that "controversial and influential" equals solely male politicians, entertainers and thinkers.
ACCENT has been around since 1967. A skeptic could argue that the gender inequality is simply reflecting historical trends, but its choices aren't getting any better any time fast. Only eight of the last 40 speaking engagements listed (from spring 2006 to spring 2010) have included women, or 20 percent.
In a student body that is 58 percent female, you'd think the demand for influential females to come speak would be greater. I was unable to speak to a representative from ACCENT about how the group chooses its speakers before this post went to print, but I'm betting it's not all from the suggestions it receives at the end of shows.
In a telling article last year in The Gainesville Sun, it was discovered that 18 out of the last 21 chairs of ACCENT have been from the same fraternity. It's obvious, then, that speakers are chosen from an overwhelmingly male perspective.
ACCENT, if you're reading this, here are some of my picks: We got Andy Samberg to come, so why not Amy Poehler? John Legend performed, so why not Corinne Bailey Rae? College is a time to be inspired to be the "leaders of tomorrow," or however the cliché goes. If our tuition money isn't going to bring a diverse range of viewpoints to campus, then The Gator Nation really is stuck in the past.