Kent State paying actress Octavia Spencer $100,000 to deliver commencement speech

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KENT, Ohio -- Kent State will pay actress Octavia Spencer $100,000 to deliver a 15-20 minute commencement speech to its graduating class on Saturday. 

The contract between the university and the Academy-Award winner shows her schedule on Saturday starts at 9 a.m. by posing for photos with VIPs.

She then takes part in the processional, delivers her speech at 11am, and is done at noon.

In addition to a fee that is listed in the contract as "$100,000 GUARANTEED," the university also agrees to provide: "two (2) unrestricted fully-refundable roundtrip first-class airfares and first-class exclusive professional ground transportation...."

**See the entire contract, below**

The contract also includes first-class hotel accommodations, plus "meals and incidentals...."

Kent State declined to answer questions on camera about the speech and the fee.

The university noted that it traditionally has not paid commencement speakers.

But, in a statement, the university said, in part, that this is the first year it is bringing all its campuses together for one university-wide commencement ceremony.

"For these ceremonies, it is common to bring in nationally-recognized speakers with a powerful message that will last long after the ceremony concludes," the university says.

"Octavia Spencer's personal journey as one of seven children whose mother was a maid in Alabama, to attend and graduate from college will resonate with our graduates...."
"We are delighted to welcome her to Kent State."

Other universities across the nation have paid for commencement speeches - including The University of Houston, which reportedly gave actor Matthew McConaughey $135,000 for speaking.

But three public universities in northern Ohio -- Cleveland State, The University of Akron, and Bowling Green -- all told us they do not pay for commencement speakers.

Further south, even gigantic Ohio State told us flatly, "Ohio State does not pay commencement speakers."

These universities say they will pay for hotel and transportation costs if needed, but they do not pay a fee for the speech itself.

Kent State said Spencer's fee was being covered by unrestricted private contributions, and that no money came from taxpayers or student tuition to cover the $100,000 payment.

But some students on campus question whether the money could have gone to other uses.

"Maybe like academic programs, or just scholarships for students that need the money," says KSU student Ashley Grazen.

"I think the money could go to a better cause," says student John Fisher.

"Maybe to one of the majors or something else," Fisher continues, "but not to an actress that's going to come here for commencement that's going to talk for 15-20 minutes."

Other students say they didn't mind the idea of a fee, but question the $100,000 amount.

"To get her out here, we'd have to give her an incentive," says KSU student Brynn Santos.

"I don't know if it's worth it to pay her that much," Santos continues, "because that is a lot of money."

"I feel like it's fair that they get paid," says student Aliyah Tucker, "but that amount is pretty intense."

The contract shows that the university was to pay the fee in two $50,000 installments last month.

See the contract, here.

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