Being a progressive activist is a lucrative career. For activists like Black Lives Matter figurehead Shaun King and Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” the speaking circuit offers five figure fees for each event they sign onto.
The Northern Light (via The College Fix), the student newspaper for the University of Alaska-Anchorage, used public records requests to discover just how much their university was paying these leftist figureheads to show up to speak on campus.
What they found out alarmed them.
The data they sifted through from the campus’ Student Life and Leadership for three years reveals that the university paid Bill Nye $40,000 for a 135-minute appearance in 2014. The event included a 60-minute speech, a 30-minute Q&A, and a 45-minute VIP reception. The school also paid an additional $1,500 for first class hotel recommendations and travel.
Black Lives Matter advocate Shaun King also commanded a five-figure rate. He received $21,000 for his 135-minute appearance on campus in February 2017. Social justice activist and frequent TV commentator Marc Lamont Hill received $20,000 for his appearance this June, as did gay media commentator Dan Savage in 2016.
Speaking to the student paper, UAA explained that Alaska’s location was the reason for the higher costs.
“The problem we have in Alaska, what makes us unique for universities and other concert venues in the Lower 48, you can get there by bus…If you are coming to Alaska you have to fly and you also lose two potential show days,” said UAA Student Boards Coordinator and Media Adviser Zac Clark, who explained that “for a lot of these people, this is their job.”
“So there’s always like just thoughts of ‘Why does this person cost so much?’ Because that’s what people would pay to get them here,” he added. “When you just look and see the price of some these artists, you don’t always get the full price and context for why that is.”
Speaking for UAA’s Student Life and Leadership, lecturer Demry Mebane said that the college needs big-name speakers to “get its students engaged. Anything that can bolster the student life of this campus, I think is intrinsically just a good thing.”
While big-name speakers like King, Hill, and Savage may generate conversation with their views, it’s unclear as to why someone like Nye should command double the speaking fees when all he’s ever done is prevent people from having honest conversations about science.
Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.