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Bill Nye Draws Huge Crowd, USF Draws Student Criticism

Apr 8, 2015

The line of USF students early Tuesday afternoon waiting for Bill Nye the Science Guy's lecture already stretched down a Marshall Student Center stairwell.
Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

For the 1,100 people who got into the University of South Florida Marshall Student Center Ballroom to see Bill Nye the Science Guy in person Tuesday night, the hours spent waiting in line were worth it.

However, for some of the 600 other students who had to watch a simulcast of the lecture in the nearby Oval Theater - or those who walked away in disgust before Nye began speaking - the whole experience was like an experiment gone wrong.

We told you Tuesday that students began lining up for the 7:30 p.m. speech by the beloved TV scientist late Monday night.

USF student newspaper, The Oracle, reports that by the time the doors opened, between 1,000 and 2,000 students were in a line that reached from the second floor of the Marshall Student Center all the way out to past Student Health Services - a distance of about a fifth of a mile - and less than 1,000 students received wristbands indicating they'd be able to get into the Ballroom.

Eric Loechelt was one person in line away from receiving a band and said he was not happy.

When Loechelt talked to The Oracle, he had just received a ticket for the streaming. Even a front row in the Oval Theater, he said, wouldn’t be the same.

“I guess we get to see him on TV,” he said. “I could have done that at home.”

In addition, some wondered why USF didn't move Nye's lecture into the Sun Dome, which can seat over 10,000 people. The Oracle said those students pointed to a similar University Lecture Series appearance by another noted scientific mind last September.

Cece Buckley, a student who also didn’t make it into the Ballroom, said she wondered why the university would give Jane Goodall, who spoke last semester, the Sun Dome and not the Science Guy.

“I like Jane Goodall,” she said. “But she’s no Bill f-----g Nye.”

Renee Hunt, Director of Communications and Marketing for USF Student Affairs, told The Oracle that moving the lecture was considered. However, the cost - $25,000 in maintenance and staff fees for the privately managed Sun Dome, in addition to Nye's fee of $52,000 - would have broken the Lecture Series' budget.

The ULS received almost $258,000 this year from the Student Government's annual Activity and Student Fee.