On Aug. 30, the H. Lee Scott Speaker Series hosted former football quarterback Peyton Manning in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. As part of his contract, he required there be no press present at the event, and that photography only be allowed for the first three minutes. It is the opinion of the staff of the Collegio that this should have been a hard “no” from the university during negotiations of his contract. It is also the opinion of the Collegio staff that the decision to host Manning is an ill-advised choice given the renown and acumen of previous subjects of the Series.
The theme of the Speaker Series is “An Examination of American Life.” Previous guests of the series have included former President Bill Clinton, United States Senator from Utah Mitt Romney, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. According to vice president of university advancement Kathleen Flannery, the series is supposed to represent the “fabric of contemporary American life.” The overarching theme of the Series itself is “An Examination of American Life.” The series is supposed to provide students, faculty, staff, and the Pittsburg community with perspective on the world and how that can be applied to their own lives. Manning simply doesn’t hold a candle to others in the Series.
Also according to Flannery, Manning did not allow press at the event because of his “philosophy.” The former football player did not want any reporting done from the event because exposure to those who did not pay for tickets would supposedly “devalue” the presentation for those who were there. This is an economic argument that at first glance sounds good but, upon closer examination, does not pass the sniff test. The tickets were already bought by those in attendance. Money was already spent on the tickets. There is no possible way to devalue the presentation except in Manning’s own performance. Even from a moral point of view, this idea of devaluation doesn’t hold up because the people who bought tickets were already experiencing the presentation. More coverage sent out to more people would only have increased the value of the presentation, not decreased it.
Pittsburg State University owes it to the student body to make decisions about the Speaker Series that are in the best interest of the student body. This means selecting guests for the Series that are going to provide valuable insight to students’ lives or those that are going to have experience relevant enough to pull from in their presentation. Manning’s destiny was decided from his birth. Guests of the Series should be accustomed to adversity, not born free of it. Manning was born into money and wanted for nothing throughout his life. He isn’t someone that can provide useful insight into the world for students.
Additionally, an athletics perspective on American life is not something that the Series should be used for. The place of athletics in American life is largely a commercial sector. Its primary goal is making money. The Series should be used for providing key philosophical or functional perspectives on life for students. By placing Manning in the ranks of Clinton, Romney, and Rice, the University sends a message that the perspective of world leaders, lawmakers, and diplomats is equivalent to the perspective of retired athletes whose expertise can’t possibly apply to students to the same extent as the previous speakers of the Series.
The staff of the Collegio hope the University will make more thoughtful choices in both procedure and guest selection when it comes to the future of the Speaker Series.