Students deserve more than an ‘all right’ commencement speaker
For the past few months, UH has been buzzing with news that award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey will give next month’s commencement speech; however, not all the buzz has been positive.
While it’s exciting to have such a legendary actor speaking, the price UH will pay him is hefty.
McConaughey will receive $135,000 to deliver the Spring 2015 commencement. Luckily, this money wasn’t paid out of the pockets of the students, as Inside HigherEd reported that McConaughey’s fee will paid by revenue generated through the University’s continuing education program.
That price is excessive, especially considering the fact UH has so many successful alumni members that would probably do it for free or less than half of what the famous actor is being paid.
In fact, according to a poll conducted on The Cougar’s website, 46 percent of students said they didn’t understand why UH chose a University of Texas alum instead of a Cougar alum.
Graduating senior Ashley Moore voiced disapproval for the decision to spend $135,000 on McConaughey.
“I’d rather we spend our money on…someone that we would all appreciate,” Moore said. “What tie does he have to Houston? His dad went here, but what tie does he have? I would rather someone from Houston actually come (and speak). I really don’t know what he is going to say, but it better be worth $135,000.”
Of course, McConaughey isn’t the only one to be paid six figures for a commencement speech. According to The Washington Post, Katie Couric in 2006 charged the University of Oklahoma $110,000. Other stars have charged large amounts as well, such as Rudy Giuliani, who received $75,000 from High Point University in 2005, and Toni Morrison, who spoke at Rutgers University for $30,000 in 2011.
Couric received a great amount of flak for charging OU the price she did. As former college graduates, Couric and McConaughey should understand the money they are charging to speak is outrageous.
According to Inside HigherEd, McConaughey will donate the commencement speech money to charity. That’s a nice gesture, but he shouldn’t have charged the fee if he was going to give the money away. He could have done the commencement ceremony for pro bono — that act would have been a form of charity.
UH may be trying to revamp and gain more attention with such campaigns as the “Powerhouse,” but getting an A-lister to speak for over $100,000 is extreme. The University already has many expensive projects in the works with the continuous rebuilding and expanding.
Pre-business freshman Brianna Cannon said she thinks the University could spend the money on more important things.
“I feel like that’s a lot of money toward something that’s not going to benefit me or other students who don’t have tickets,” Cannon said.
“I understand he’s an A-Lister, but…there are other people who can say what he’s saying for a lot less money. The University should be focusing on getting better food, better housing, working elevators and stuff like that versus paying for someone who is going to be here for less than an hour.”
Many are nothing less than outraged with UH’s decision to pay and have not been afraid to speak out it.
“Matthew McConaughey gets six figures for a commencement speech at U. of Houston,” tweeted Cate McGowan, a writing professor at Valencia College. “What do they pay their adjuncts?”
Paying someone such a large sum of money for a ceremony may not have been the best decision to make. There are other organizations, programs, professors and students that need funding, but instead, UH has decided to pay a multi-millionaire six figures.
To add to the issue, UH is making the commencement ceremony a bigger occasion than the individual college convocations, where students will actually walk the stage and graduate.
“They are giving us more tickets to his commencement than to our actual graduation,” Moore said. “I would rather have my family at my graduation than at the commencement.”
There are many people who are excited about McConaughey speaking and are looking forward to his presence. But the expense the University is paying takes some of the excitement out of the experience.
Hopefully McConaughey gives the graduates and their families a life-changing experience, as there are students who are looking forward to hearing what he has to say for ceremony. But the actor should know that since the University’s paid him so much, the expectations are high.
Because an “all right” speech is just not going to cut it.
Opinion columnist Faith Alford is a journalism sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].