Spending $300,000 to pay Hillary Clinton to speak on campus last spring was a waste of money, according to the results of a recent UCLA Daily Bruin online poll.
The poll’s question noted that: “Hillary Clinton’s recent $300,000 paycheck for speaking at the Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership has captured the attention of news outlets around the country. What do these large fees for notable speakers say about UCLA and the Luskin lecture series?”
Her 90-minute March 5 appearance – the itinerary of which was a half-hour photo line followed by a 60-minute speech and moderated Q&A – amounts to roughly $3,300 per minute that the former Secretary of State and possible 2016 Democratic presidential contender earned for her time.
Of the 271 people who participated in the multiple-choice poll on the student newspaper’s website, the top pick – 48 percent or 131 voters – agreed that “large sums are inappropriate and demonstrate poor prioritizing on the part of the university and the Luskin lecture series.”
Another large chunk of respondents – 27 percent or 73 votes – called the large sums “unfortunate, but without them UCLA might not obtain the same level of notable speakers for the lecture.”
A smaller margin – 21 percent or 58 votes – agreed it was worth the money, calling it an “inspiring and rare opportunity.” The final nine voters were undecided.
The Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership was launched in 2011 and is funded through the aid of wealthy businessman and UCLA donor Meyer Luskin, who is also a supporter of President Barack Obama, giving money to his campaigns in the past, according to online Federal Election Commission records.
UCLA’s Luskin lecture has paid for exactly three speeches to date: one from former President Bill Clinton in 2012, which cost $250,000; another by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2013, which the Daily Bruin reports earned the diplomat $180,000; and most recently by Hillary Clinton in March, who was given $300,000 for her time.
“Hillary Clinton has inspired a lot of students, but when you talk about funding, $300,000 could have gone somewhere else to create concrete changes,” Conrad Contreras, the Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president, told the Daily Bruin in a July 7 article. “It’s difficult to see that UCLA is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to someone who is already wealthy when I have friends and families working countless hours to stay in higher education.”
In that same article, the Daily Bruin noted that Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright have given speeches at UCLA in the past and charged no fee when they came to speak through the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.
After the Bruin’s article was published, Joseph Rudnick, senior dean of UCLA College of Letters and Science, defended the Luskin series in a letter to the editor, saying “thanks to their gift, the UCLA College has built a signature lecture on campus without the need to use public funds. To date, three world leaders have come to campus to share their thoughts on the important issues shaping our world, and each time, students have attended these lectures free of charge.”
Except there was a near riot when those free tickets to Hillary Clinton’s appearance were doled out to students, the Bruin reported at the time. In fact, many students were shut out of the event due to a lack of space, prompting officials to agree to live-stream it to the overflow crowd.
The venue choice had even prompted students to petition to have the speech relocated.
“Live-streams are just like (glorified) videos, which we can watch on YouTube anytime,” one student who launched the petition told the Bruin. “The experience of witnessing someone speak in person is something that I can’t even put into words, and that is what I’m advocating for. … Students have the most to gain and usually most interest in such lectures, but it looks almost like a campaign event for Hillary where the only people who can afford to attend are those already donating to the campaign.”
The speech was a campus fundraiser that raised money for UCLA scholarships through the sale of tickets, which cost $100 to $500 dollars apiece. The Clintons have said that they transferred their campus speaking fees to their family’s nonprofit.
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix ( @JenniferKabbany )
IMAGE: U.S. Department of State