UF students have some big expectations to live up to following Bill Nye’s event Monday night.
College students will help change the world, he said. Battling climate change, racial inequity and producing new scientific innovations fall on their shoulders.
During the hour-long virtual event funded by Accent Speaker’s Bureau, a student-run organization funded by UF Student Government, Nye spoke to about 700 attendees on Microsoft Teams about masks, climate change, scientific research and general advice.
The event was free to anyone with a valid university email, and Nye will be paid $35,000 in student fees to speak, according to the event contract. Accent announced Aug. 4 that Nye would be speaking at SG’s third, and last, virtual event of the Summer.
The event started with a 45-minute interview between Nye and Joe Kays, UF Director of Research Communications. Kays asked Nye about COVID-19, race and climate change. After, students asked Nye during a 15-minute Q&A for advice on what to do when they graduate college and how to navigate remote learning.
During the interview, Nye discussed current events and issues.
“I am very optimistic about the future,” he said. “Because you all are going to be graduated and you’re going to change things.”
He said college students can change the world by combating climate change. People must prioritize issues like using natural resources efficiently and improving the quality of life for everyone by securing equal access to education, clean water and internet across the globe, he said.
Floridians need to wear masks, Nye said. He also said a vaccine for COVID-19 needs to be distributed globally, which will be a big job, so people need to wear masks to protect themselves for the next few years.
“You've got to wear a mask when you're in public,” Nye said. “It ain’t about you. It ain’t about your freedom and what you choose to do. It’s about me, protecting me from you, you and your germy nose.”
Nye also said race is a human construct. People have different skin colors because ultraviolet rays and different combinations of genes lead to lighter or darker skin, but ultimately, we’re all one species, he said. The Black Lives Matter movement is showing people how North America has been unfair for centuries, Nye said, but he has hope that the next generation will make progress with equity.
Diverse scientific teams will find better and faster solutions to scientific problems, he said, and we are on the journey to get women, especially those of non-European descent, into space exploration.
Alexis Todd, a 23-year-old UF computer engineering senior, grew up watching Bill Nye’s TV show. It was interesting to see him speak to UF students and answer her question about how he felt about female engineers being more common now than when Nye went to school, Todd said.
As a woman in engineering, Nye’s thoughts that diverse groups of people work better together in STEM was inspiring to her, she said.
“He took something that sometimes made me feel excluded, like being a unique person in my field, and he turned it into an advantage,” she said.
During the student Q&A, Nye gave advice to students about college. He encouraged students to take time to mess around because he regrets pushing himself so hard that he didn’t have time to have fun. But this doesn’t mean party all the time, and please wear a mask, he added.
Virtual learning is doable, but students will have to be flexible, he said. He said he expects students will have to learn remotely until mid-2021, and people can get through this hardship by working together and taking care of each other, he said.
He also encouraged students to just get started. If your first job doesn’t help you reach your goals, just get started, he said. And vote thoughtfully, Nye added. Be diligent in making choices when you vote for your best interest, he said.
“So go out there, Gators, change the world,” he said.
Leilanee Taylor, a 20-year-old UF printmaking and political science junior grew up watching Nye in science class. Nye’s hopes for the new generation in college inciting change inspired her, she said, because it will be up to college students to change things.
Taylor attended Mulaney’s event in May, and said this event was less awkward because it was as structured. She enjoyed hearing Nye talk about COVID-19, BLM and women’s empowerment, she said.
Accent’s first virtual event of Summer hosted comedian John Mulaney, who was paid $50,000 in student fees for the hour-long event. Its second virtual event featured the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, who were each paid $10,000.
Nye’s $35,000 payment was determined based on a conversation Wolf had with an agent representing Nye, Wolf wrote.
When asked why Nye is being paid less than Mulaney but more than the BLM founders, Wolf wrote that speaker fees are predetermined by them and their agent.