In anticipation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech today, Georgetown students equipped with sleeping bags camped out near Gaston Hall before 11 p.m. the night before the 10:30 a.m. event, much like they did when she spoke in 2014.
The traditional rite of passage of spending hours in line to make the cut for a prestigious Gaston speaker presents itself a few times a year — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to name a few. However, the pomp and circumstance surrounding these superstar visitors makes it all too easy to overlook the fact that extraordinary speakers come to Georgetown practically every day who are mostly ignored by the campus community.
The Georgetown International Relations Club hosted its annual Georgetown Diplomacy and International Security Conference last Saturday, which, despite hosting speakers like National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael S. Rogers and former Obama Deputy Assistant Colin Kahl, struggled to fill half the seats at its panels held in Healy Hall classrooms. These names only touch on the number of impressive speakers at Georgetown every week across many buildings on or near campus.
The issue is not that these events receive no participation — nearly all have dogged, dedicated followings from a select group of students. But often these events are under-attended relative to the prestige of the speakers, perhaps because students are so acclimated to an onslaught of famous speakers that they take for granted the other opportunities the university provides.
Speakers who could easily fill auditoriums at other schools may find sparsely occupied seating at Georgetown. Though this may be partly attributed to Georgetown student’s general busyness — with class conflicts and commitments to other student organizations — much of this may stem from the inconsistent means of promotion across campus, through emails, flyers and Facebook event invitations.
The mass notifications create a clutter that makes it easier to overlook certain events, and attendance at certain programs suffers because only a select few subscribers are notified. Nevertheless, students have resources at their disposal that could alleviate this clutter. Despite the efficiency of underused tools such as the Georgetown Event Calendar launched by the Georgetown University Student Association last year, students nevertheless often neglect to reap the benefits of opportunities offered on campus.
The lack of awareness about these events is detrimental to students who miss out on opportunities, to student groups who organized the events and to the speakers themselves who encounter underwhelming audiences. In light of student apathy, this editorial board beseeches students to combat “event fatigue” by accessing campus resources like the events calendar and educating themselves about opportunities on campus.
A key distinguishing element of the education provided at Georgetown through its D.C. location and prestige is its capacity to attract prominent, intellectually engaging speakers every week. While Georgetown students are undoubtedly occupied with responsibilities in their academic and extracurricular lives, resources exist to help students identify opportunities and enrich their experience at Georgetown by engaging with speakers.