KU students haven't been successful in a four-month campaign to add a well-known keynote speaker to the annual commencement program.
Kansas University senior Carrie Campbell wants to spice up commencement with the wit of David Letterman or the wisdom of Bob Dole.
Campbell, chair of the student-organized Committee for a Speaker at Commencement, said it's not enough to have graduates parade down Campanile Hill into Memorial Stadium to listen to university dignitaries.
"I enjoy the walk down the hill. It's a great tradition," said Campbell, a Lawrence senior majoring in English. "But once you get inside, no one pays attention to the actual ceremony."
KU's Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the committee's plan.
In November, the student group submitted a proposal outlining the commencement speaker idea. The goal was to get a response from the KU Commencement Committee by February, but none was forthcoming.
Campbell said it was too late to schedule a well-known keynote speaker for the May 1994 commencement program.
"I feel the issue is pretty much dead for this year," she said.
Jim Scally, assistant to KU Chancellor Gene Budig, said the KU Commencement Committee would meet soon to plan this year's program.
In an interview, Scally wasn't enthusiastic that KU officials would lift a ban on keynote commencement speakers. The current program already keeps friends and family of KU graduates at the stadium about three hours.
"If the weather is typical, it can be very uncomfortable," he said.
Scally said adding a commencement speaker to the schedule would increase the discomfort of guests, particularly elderly visitors.
Campbell said many public universities, including the University of North Carolina, Iowa State University and University of Oregon, bring in speakers to deliver a 10 to 15 minute address to graduates.
"I'd not want to sit 30 minutes to hear a speech. My idea was a short motivational speech to students," she said.
Under the Campbell committee plan, transportation expenses for commencement speakers would be paid by student organizations.
The chancellor could provide lodging at his guest house on campus, she said.
The cost of bringing a John Updike, Charles Kuralt or George Bush to campus would be minimal, she said. None of the seven universities Campbell surveyed paid commencement speakers more than travel expenses and a $500 honorarium.
Campbell said the student committee's list of potential speakers included Letterman, Dole, North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith and a member of President Clinton's staff.