In view of the incidents surrounding several recent visits sponsored by our campus lecture series, the Charles M. Humfdinger Memorial Lecture Committee has issued some new rules for all speakers invited to campus. The latest guidelines issued by the AAUP, “Academic Freedom and Outside Speakers,” are welcome but simply too vague.
1. Visiting lecturers are to be chosen by a vote from all the committee members, which is to say a real assembly planned for everyone, not an ad hoc meeting hastily drawn up by the chair that almost no one can attend, during which an uncontested nomination for a speaker is put forth.
2. The makeup of the lecture committee shall consist of faculty from a range of disciplines, not a wedge from the Slavic Language and Culture Program.
3. The visiting lecturer should represent a field of interest to a broad spectrum on campus, such as architecture or sociology, not just one professor’s specialty on, say, Flemish ceramics from the 1860s.
4. The agreed-upon speaker’s fee shall be restricted to $5,000, even if the guest speaker claims to receive three times that much from other institutions. There shall be no percentage of this fee distributed to other parties.
5. The phrase “including travel and accommodations” should be normally construed as meaning a regular round trip fare in coach class, airport pickup and delivery by a graduate student, and a stay at our Alumni House Motel. While it is understood that extra exigencies may occasionally crop up, a charter jet and the rental of a Jaguar are not in that category.
6. Special provisions may be available for guest lecturers who wish to bring their spouses, but not additional family members, groupies, or so-called servants.
7. The lecturer should make him or herself available to interested parties, engaging in activities that include visiting classes and meeting students and faculty during our three o’clock coffee hour. Holing up in the Alumni House Motel all day should be at all costs discouraged.
8. The pre-lecture dinner with the chancellor is mandatory, though the choice of chicken or pork should be broadened to include a vegetarian option.
9. Though the committee is reluctant to impose a dress code, the speaker should be aware that the Humfdinger Memorial Lecture is a ceremonial occasion. Consequently, tank tops, cutoffs, and thongs are aggressively discouraged.
10. Mrs. Humfdinger, the widow of Professor Charles M. Humfdinger and the endower of our lecture series, is a dignified woman who should not be referred to as “that old bat,” “grannykins,” or other overly familiar terms.
11. The duration of the Charles M. Humfdinger Memorial Lecture is to be about an hour, not a five-minute improvised speech followed by a Q & A session.
12. All speeches are to be delivered in English or with the assistance of a suitable translator.
13. All speakers are to be reminded that U. of All People is not only a dry campus, but also a drug-free zone. A copy of our bylaws will be distributed ahead of time.
14. The rooms at the Alumni House Motel are orderly and clean and should be kept that way. Reimbursement for any damage incurred to the room shall come out of the speaker’s fee.
15. Speakers are reminded that all guests of U. of All People are also guests of the state and must abide by its sexual statutes. These rules include a proper regard for minors and the dean of liberal arts.
We make every attempt to make the speaker’s visit to campus a pleasant one. The recently set up Charles M. Humfdinger Memorial Lecture Investigation Committee has yet to issue its report, but we hope that the institution of these bylaws will render any punitive actions unnecessary.
David Galef is a professor of English and administrator of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at the University of Mississippi. His latest book is the short story collection Laugh Track (2002).