Dan Savage, international sex columnist and founder of the “It Gets Better” project, is returning to UAA for his fourth “Savage Love Live.” His lecture will be featured during Healthy Sexuality week.
Savage first came to UAA in 2009, and his lecture about relationships and sexuality was so popular that Student Activities brought him back in 2010.
“He came two years in a row, took a year off, and people were begging for him to come again. So we had him again and now again,” Michael McCormick, assistant director of Student Activities, said.
“The year we didn’t bring him back, we got hounded by students saying, ‘Where’s Dan Savage? We need Dan back.’”
Savage’s “Savage Love” column answers questions about love, relationships and sexuality. The column is printed in over 70 newspapers around the world.
At the UAA event, he’ll be taking questions from the audience and answering them, like his column in live format.
“You could ask him on a card and get that question answered. Or if you aren’t embarrassed, you could raise your hand and be called,” McCormick said. “And it’s really funny. I mean, people are doubled over laughing.”
McCormick believes that Dan’s way of integrating humor into his talks helps his audiences relate to the topics.
“It kind of takes the edge off it,” he said. “Sometimes you laugh at yourself.”
He also believes that the root of Savage’s lectures is important for students.
“The basic core is human dignity, being truthful, being moral, being straightforward and upfront about what you want, what your desires and expectations are,” he said. “We know that what he will share with students might be profound, even life-saving. And that’s hard to beat.”
“I think some people would really benefit from a healthy relationship lecture,” Logan Mariscal, business admin and management sophomore, said.
“In my senior year of high school I came out as bi, so I was really confused and didn’t really have a guide or answers.”
Mariscal has not been to any of the previous lectures Savage has given on campus, but he is considering this one.
English senior Younger Oliver is thinking of going as well.
“Not only is he entertaining, but he can have a positive impact on anyone that is going through a rough time,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t be brave enough to ask a question, but I think that it would be interesting to listen to conversations about relationships in general. I could probably use some of the advice given.”
While many admire Savage’s work, others criticize him for supposed racist, misogynist and transphobic views expressed in his talks and columns. Many view him as a bully for his alleged anti-Christian remarks at a Seattle high school journalism conference in April 2012.
“I haven’t heard of that,” McCormick said of the controversy around Savage.
According to McCormick, there was a similar situation regarding Arun Ghandi, a guest speaker at a previous Martin Luther King Student Appreciation Luncheon. McCormick and his team of program coordinators were alerted to a possible controversy surrounding the speaker involving anti-Semitism.
“We went to the source of where the remarks came from, we looked at the comments in the context that they were made, we called a rabbi in town and talked with him, talked with members of the staff who are Jewish and, in the end, decided that it still warranted him being here. We personally found that he wasn’t anti-Semitic,” he said.
McCormick explained that, when Student Activities is alerted about something potentially offensive in advance, steps like these are the norm. If there is anyone on campus who feels that Savage is a poor choice as a speaker for similar reasons, McCormick hasn’t been made aware of their concerns.
“We haven’t heard from those people. I know I haven’t,” he said.
McCormick went on to say that if there is anyone who would like to address the issue with him, Student Activities would like to hear from them in regards to future events. He also invites them to come to the talk, so that they may try to address Savage directly.
Dan Savage’s “Savage Love Live” lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 7 in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. Tickets for students are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Tickets for the general public are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets are currently sold out.