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Lecture panel in unrest following resignation

BY ZHI XIONG | APRIL 07, 2009 7:30 AM

The group that brought such big names as Karl Rove and Alice Sebold to campus may not be prepared for next year’s lecture lineup. And the University Lecture Committee members can’t seem to agree why.

They say it’s a combination of budget issues and — perhaps more so — questionable leadership.

Except there is no leader for the moment.

Former Chairman Mike Currie, who is running for UI Student Government president on the Go Party ticket, resigned in an e-mail sent Sunday night. Committee members said they had planned to oust him with a no-confidence vote.

Currie defended himself in September 2008 against accusations about his ability to lead the committee. Former committee members wrote a signed letter to the DI alleging UISG President Maison Bleam chose his friend Currie over more worthy candidates.

Bleam said the two are “good friends,” and he was allowed to pick student heads of charter committees under the UI’s Operations Manual.

After Monday night’s UISG debate, Bleam said he was “blind-sided” by news of Currie’s resignation.

“For a group with a $106,000 budget, to say the leader is not doing his job is a pretty serious charge,” Bleam said. “I wish they had contacted me about it.”

He said that “they” referred not just to the committee members who were unhappy with Currie’s work, but Currie himself. Though Currie said he knew about the potential no-confidence vote, his letter of resignation cited the “excessive nature” of his schedule as motive for quitting.

“I thought I could handle it, but I had way too much on my plate,” he said Monday.

Aside from hashing out payment and schedules, the Lecture Committee handles the such logistics as living arrangements, motor escorts, and marketing.

Ryan Domyancic, a first-year member, told Currie about the committee’s plans to force his resignation. However, Domyancic said, he was not blind to Currie’s shortcomings as a leader and said Currie failed to schedule regular meetings. In past years, those meetings took place each week.

Now, the Lecture Committee is slipping toward the last six weeks of the semester in “dire straits,” Domyancic said.

“We haven’t had a single offer letter go out,” he said, referring to the invitation letters sent to prospective speakers’ agencies and secretaries. Usually, a year can pass between sending out a letter and a guest’s arrival on campus.

Domyancic said an uncertain budget is also a factor in the panel’s predicament. The outgoing UISG administration will confirm tonight how much money goes to the group. Currie said it could be $100,000, about three-quarters of the group’s budget last year.

A speaker such as former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson can cost as much as $12,500.

Despite his controversial entry and exit as chairman, Currie plans to stay on the committee.

“People do not need to be worried,” he said. “We’ll have a great series next year.”

Bleam said a nomination committee will recommend a replacement for Currie.


Correction appended 04/08/09:

In the April 7 story, “Lecture turmoil,” the DI incorrectly reported the University Lecture Committee’s potential budget. It is roughly 3 percent lower than last year’s.

The DI would like to clarify that at least two committee members wanted to call a vote of no-confidence — that is not the majority.

And because of a source error, the DI incorrectly reported that the UI Student Government would confirm the committee’s budget Tuesday evening.

The DI regrets the errors.


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