Letter to the Editor Re: To the Selection Committee for the Sacerdote Great Names Series and the Administration of Hamilton College

By Jake London '14

I am writing to express my disappointment in the lack of organization and commitment Hamilton College has shown toward the Sacerdote Great Names Series. The College’s website describes the Great Names Series as an ongoing series which “brings to campus national and international leaders in government, business, science and the arts.” Since the Series’ inaugural speaker in 1996, the Sacerdote Great Names Series has brought 18 speakers to campus. The committee brought former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to campus in the fall of 2010, but since then the committee has not scheduled a Great Names speaker.

In the spring of 2012, the Selection Committee sent an email informing the Hamilton community that the committee had failed to secure a speaker for the 2011-2012 academic year. The email went on to state that the committee would “begin pursuing options for the fall semester. The money saved from not having a speaker in 2011-12 will be combined with the additional income available in the next fiscal year, which will provide additional options for the committee.” With less than four weeks left in the fall semester, no announcement of a confirmed speaker has been made. What ‘additional’ options were pursued by the committee for this semester? Why has the committee remained silent about its efforts to bring a speaker to campus this semester as it promised nine months ago?

The committee’s failure to secure a speaker for this semester is an injustice to current Hamilton freshmen and sophomores, as well as junior January Admits and transfers, who have never had the opportunity to experience of the Sacerdote Great Names Series.

Hamilton College continues to promote the Sacerdote Great Names Series as ongoing, despite a speaker not being brought to campus in over two years. This misrepresentation to parents and prospective students is a breach of Hamilton College’s integrity. If the Great Names Series has been suspended or cancelled it is in the best interest of the College to announce such a decision to the Hamilton community.

If Hamilton College does plan on continuing the Series, information on the next speaker or the reasons the committee failed to schedule a speaker should be made public to the Hamilton community.

Furthermore, I hope the Great Names Series will return to its stated mission of bringing to campus leaders in the fields of “government, business, science, and the arts.” With the exception of revered news anchor Tom Brokaw, and Holocaust survivor and acclaimed writer Elie Wiesel, every Great Names Series speaker has either been a prominent politician, diplomat, musician, or comedian. Not once in its history has the Sacerdote Great Names Series brought a speaker with a scientific background to campus, despite its stated commitment to do so. If Hamilton College is fully committed to the Sacerdote Great Names Series I implore the selection committee to host a speaker from the scientific community. For example, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium would be an excellent candidate, as he has been widely considered the next Carl Sagan.

Finally, I wish to commend Hamilton College and the Selection Committee for the Great Names speakers it has brought to campus in the past. It is imperative that Hamilton College remains committed to the Sacerdote Great Names Series. Hopefully, a suitable speaker will be found soon. If the selection committee scheduled Great Names speakers a few years in advance, these long gaps between speakers could be avoided. A clear schedule would ensure that the Sacerdote Great Names Series would return to being an annual Hamilton tradition. 

­—Jake London ’14


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