Forums diversify

by Andrew Goodell

Simpson has played host to a wide variety of speakers in itsForum events so far this year.

One of the goals of the Simpson Forum program is to exposestudents to new ideas. In keeping with that goal, some of thespeakers this year have been decidedly political and have had viewsthat may be disliked by some attendees.

“I think one of the reasons why there are a certain number ofpolitical Forums is because it’s an election year,” said JohnEpperson, professor of political science and director of Forumevents.

The increase in political Forums this year is certainly notsomething that has come about without considering the opinions ofstudents.

Epperson has cultivated ideas for Forum speakers based on inputfrom administrators and fellow faculty members, as well as studentgovernment leaders. Epperson obtains Forum suggestions from thesethree groups by providing the paperwork for them to properlysuggest a speaker or performer.

“I try to put together speakers that students would beinterested in,” Epperson said.

The Simpson Forum budget is updated monthly and cannot beexceeded, according to Epperson. Although it is not the biggestissue when considering a Forum event, Epperson said, “I always ask’How much is this speaker going to cost?'”

Having a speaker come to Simpson for a Forum depends on twogeneral areas of expenditure. First, Epperson must consider howmuch transportation and hotel accommodations will be. Next,Epperson must consider how much the individual’s honorary feeis.

According to Epperson, this fee varies from speaker to speakerand there is some degree of negotiation involved.

An exception to the monthly Simpson Forum budget is the annualMcBride Lecture, which is funded through an endowment.

Epperson said there have been instances in the past when hehasn’t been able to approve a speaker for a forum event based oncost.

“I’ve turned people down before,” Epperson said.

For example, Epperson could not approve a Forum proposed byjunior Carl Benskin for a conservative political speaker becausethe individual exceeded Simpson’s budget.

As director of forum events, Epperson has the ultimate say inapproving Forum speakers.

Freshmen at Simpson must attend at least three forum events intheir first semester as part of the Liberal Arts Seminar. One ofthese Forums is chosen by the instructor of their LAS. The requiredForum event usually corresponds to the student’s intendedmajor.

“It wouldn’t be unusual to require political science students tosee a political speaker,” Epperson said.

Epperson feels a wide variety of Forums is beneficial to theSimpson Community.

For example, he said the Forum that featured Carl Bernstein lastyear was beneficial to a variety of students.

Students realized the importance of political history becauseBernstein was the Washington Post reporter who helped break theWatergate scandal. His speech also benefitted communicationstudents because Bernstein addressed some of his reportingmethods.

As a political science professor, Epperson enjoys the politicalForums. One speaker he found interesting this year was StanleyHauerwas, a pacifist who critiqued how Americans talk and thinkabout war.

Some students may be opposed to a required regimen of forumevents because they clash with other obligations, and some aresimply opposed to the content of the Forum events they’re requiredto attend. Epperson said they should try to see the value of theevents regardless of their opinions.

“The lectures are intended to provide students with …thought-provoking ideas in culture and politics,” Eppersonsaid.

This exposure to new ideas is one of the most important thingsstudents can gain from Forum events, according to Epperson.

“Whenever you listen to a speech, you listen for the centralidea or ideas,” Epperson said.