From the Utah Valley State College Mission Statement, Academic Freedom is a climate conducive to the free examination of ideas. We encourage thoughtful debate and civil discourse and respect the right and responsibility of faculty and students to explore all topics relevant to the educational experience (UVSC Mission Statement). Why then did local Orem resident Kay Anderson say, “Utah Valley is very conservative and bringing a liberal like Moore here could change the character of the place in irrevocable ways” (Perron).
Wait, I thought that UVSC was a place for the free examination of all ideas, a place where there could be thoughtful debate and civil discourse? From the mission statement, it is the the right and responsibility of the school to bring speakers to help students explore all topics, even liberal ones, for the educational experience of the student. So, what is academic freedom? Is it more than a choice of red or blue? What was the real problem with the Michael Moore/Sean Hannity speeches? Some say it was the excessive spending by the members of the UVSC student government, others say that in some degree, that liberalism is some kind of disease that the residents of Utah County will surely catch with one speaker coming to the college. So the question that must be asked is, do the academic freedoms that UVSC holds have some kind of moral or social responsibility? Should they be more like the blue school that is right up the road, or more like the red school a few miles up the other road. These are the points that we will try to analyze and evaluate.
The Associated Students of Utah Valley State College, or ASUVSC like many public schools has the right to governing student fees. Student fees are set apart from the rest of the tuition in the ways that they are spent. Tuition is governed in two tiers, the first is governed by the Utah state legislature and the second tier is governed by the local institution. Aside from the prices of tuition, there are fees that each student is required to cover. The purpose of this money is to cover some of the services that are not included with tuition. A few examples are bond payments, UTA service for the students, a large portion of the Athletic department, and, the ASUVSC budget (FAQ).
Every spring, the recipients of this money are invited to a fee hearing where they can ask for an increase in their allotment of student fees. A large portion of these fees allottedoted to ASUVSC. These are then filtered down into the three main portions of student government, Student Life, Clubs and Organizations, and Academic Senate. Part of Senates responsibility is to bring speakers to campus. For “it is the proper role of academic institutions, and especially state institutions, to present different viewpoints for intellectual discussion.” (FAQ) To allow a wide variety speakers there is an annual budget of $50,000 set aside from student fees. Imagine if you will, the gaul of our student government to invite one speaker in october of the school year that would ask for $40,000+ dollars. Surely this is within their realms, for in the ASUVSC Constitution it provides that when an expense is beyond $50,000 then there are some hoops to jump through (UVSC).
So student government didn’t really violate the constitution because it was below $50,000. Although it appears that the final contract exceeded $50,000, student government always anticipated that ticket sales would cover a significant portion of these costs. Also, contract negotiations specifically detailed a $40,000 stipend for Mr. Moore’s speaking fee and $10,500 for security and additional expenses. Historic practice at the College has allowed students to commit to events exceeding $50,000 when ticket sales were part of the consideration (FAQ).
So the students did everything according to their own by-laws. So why the fuss, why the hate-mail, why the death threats? Oh, I guess that we already forgot that the speaker budget was only $50,000 to begin with. So what now? Is the rest of the year to be spent without speakers? Is this one sided political carnival that is being given to the students of UVSC to go without notice? Of course not! This is Utah, and the last thing that any God fearing, obviously Republican citizen, (and Mormon) here in Utah would do is let this go unnoticed.
I guess that UVSC V.P. of Academics Joe Vogel saw that the only way to balance out this political see-saw was to recognize the bipartisan politics in place in our nation, and quickly invite the conservative, right wing, Bush loving, Republican. But who to invite? They could sign anybody on the Fox Network, maybe shoot for radio giants Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck. It was reported that UVSC went back and forth trying for Michael Reagan, son of former president, Ronald Reagan, and Alan Colmes. I guess though, if you want to find a speaker that appeals to your world view (in this case Mormon), simply turn to LDS owned KSL 1160 maybe around 1-4 PM Monday through Friday, and you might just find your man. 100% Legitimate, Let Freedom Ring! Sean Hannity.
Hannity was offered $40,000 to speak earlier this year by Joe Vogel and ASUVSC. He declined when his $100,000 speaking fee could not be met. But, after hearing that Moore would be coming to campus, and probably feeling that Moore, could change the character of the place in irrevocable ways waved his speaking fee, and offered to come to campus free of charge. Like any true patriot, all that he asked was for UVSC to pick up the travel expenses (Abbot).
Sean Hannity lives in New York. He needed to travel to Utah, and then to Arizona the next day to do a show along with the third presidential debate. Along with the presidential elections, it happened to be a race for the Governor’s chair here in Utah. Add into the mix John Huntsman Jr. an excellent statesman, and quite the philanthropist to boot. So it wasn’t really hard to say to Mr. Hannity that when you come to Utah Valley, feel free to have my personal jet, and along with the crew, here is $10,000 to help the expense cause. Sounds like a good deal to me, I like the idea of flying in Mr. Huntsman’s jet. So imagine my, along with most of Utah Valley, shock when he declined the offer. So, we thought, thanks for coming, we will will look for the bill in the mail.
So Hannity came, spoke, and called Moore a coward for not accepting an invitation for a debate. The Utah valley was Hannitized, and was left blood thirsty for their liberal prey to descend upon their campus. Hurricane Mike came, and left little aftermath. Free underwear and Top Ramen were given to pledged voters and as attendees left the McKay Events Center (Nielson).
Well Moore received his check and all said in done, UVSC ended up paying for his speaking, traveling, and security fees in excess of $62,000. Our Republican still had to send his check. Hannity, sent university officials and private donors travel expenses totaling $49,850, which surprised UVSC administrators. I guess that I would have been surprised when Mr. 100% Legitimate, Let Freedom Ring, Hannity did such a favor to the students of UVSC when he dropped the original speaking fee, and then still sent such a large bill. Because UVSC did not have an official speaking contract with Hannity, they did not know beforehand how much his travel would cost. Derek Hall, spokesman for UVSC, said UVSC officials were generally surprised when they received the bill (Barry and Payne).
Ticket sales for Hannity’s speech reached $35,000. Hannity’s travel expenses, combined with costs for event security, totaled $8,850 taken from the student budget for speakers this year. Expenses for both events totaled $105,850, but revenue coming from donors and ticket sales offset most of the cost. The Associated Students of UVSC will have over $15,600 remaining in their speaker budget after all expenses from both events are paid (Payne).
“You have two speakers both of national renown in their own right on campus within two weeks of a national election and to spend a grand total of $34,500… that’s unheard of,” Derek Hall said.
With the banners down, and the press largely left, has the college turned into some liberal hot bead akin to that of the 1960’s Berkeley? No, of course not. Bush still won the election, and Utah is still largely Republican. The real victory here is the media that came to UVSC. As the old adage goes, there is no such thing as bad press. For as much bad press UVSC got, it has turned the school into a political frenzy and got students registered, and they voted. This was a real victory for UVSC, even if this broke up student government, after reports that Joe Vogel would be writing a tell all book of the Moore/Hannity controversy (Pederson).
Vogel said many people believe Hannity did a favor to the community by coming, so the travel bill is not a big deal. After all, people came, people voted, and UVSC got some national publicity. “It will eventually blow over,” Derek Hall said.