Wiz Khalifa sold out last year, and Bruno Mars’s show did well the year before. Posters using the USG logo have been falsely advertising musical groups around campus, such as Creed and Insane Clown Posse. And let’s not forget to mention the one with a naked “Larry the Cable Guy,” who’s holding the very same USG logo dangerously low on his crotch. The posters are a hoax, but are only adding to the confusion that has recently blanketed USG’s attempts to choose an artist.
Stony Brook University received a chance to contract a duo performance from electro musician Steve Aoki and rapper Kendrick Lamar. The overall process of setting up a performance is fairly simple. USG sends out a bid months before the contract is signed. The bid is meant to be a “temporary hold” of the artist. If anything goes wrong, such as a failed security check, the bid is retracted. However, this semester’s process, as Aoki might say, didn’t have “No Beef.”
In order to best understand what kind of artist students want, the Student Activities Board (SAB) sent out a survey during the summer. The survey yielded about 200-300 results, according to one USG member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. As expected, many students wanted the school to book very popular artists, such as Rihanna or fun. SAB reposted the very same survey when classes resumed in the fall, adding about 500 responses.
With the arena, the usual location of the end of year concert, currently under construction, SAB had to find a new venue. Given the number of students that often attend the end of year concert, holding it at Staller steps would be too dangerous and costly. This is especially true in regards to all the security measures that must be taken to control a large crowd. Another USG member, who also asked to remain nameless, suggested that South P might be a good venue. This is problematic as many commuter students would not be able to park their cars due to the set-up of the stage and standing area. Additionally, traffic would play a major issue as non-ticket holders could ride by the outdoor concert.
Given this information, there was no other choice but LaValle Stadium. In September, SAB met with officials from the Athletics Department to discuss its use. Chris Murray, Manager of Athletics Marketing, said that they were “completely for the idea.”
“We looked at our spring schedule and we had to come up with three days. We had to find a time that the field was clear and we had one day in April and two in May.”
LaValle Stadium can seat over 8,000 students, not including standing area on the field itself. Murray said that allowing so many students on the field would damage the turf. He suggested that the best solution would be to build a stage adjacent to the press box, facing the seats. Students would be able to comfortably enjoy the show, and the pressure on the field would be the stage alone.
Before winter break, SAB was approached and told that they had gotten a date for the Aoki/Lamar duo performance. The board was ecstatic. But this was where the conflict began. Two members of the board have stepped forward and said that directly after the release of the bid, Zachary Guarnero, the director of the agency of SAB, allegedly stated that Anna Lubitz, the current president of USG, would “not want rap” and/or “like” the particular artists chosen. One of the USG members also claimed that Lubitz, who is romantically linked to Guarnero, came into the office the same day of the alleged comment and conveyed her disapproval of another hip-hop artist.
“During the meeting where we voted on the Aoki tour, I was asked to express the opinions of President Lubitz since she had to meet with administration and wasn’t able to attend the SAB meeting,” said Guarnero in an email. “One of the things that she asked me to make clear was that in our bylaws it says we should make it our goal to provide diverse acts to appeal to students with a wide variety of musical preferences. Since last year for ‘Brookfest,’ we had a show featuring a rapper (Wiz Khalifa) and a DJ (Mimosa), I thought that repeating last year’s show would not be a proper way to utilize the money we were given. President Lubitz shared that sentiment, so during the meeting I expressed this; however, it fell upon deaf ears as the vote was unanimously in favor of the Steve Aoki tour.”
After a bid is reached, it must be signed off by the USG President, in this case Lubitz. Prior to her signing, another survey appeared, which had not been seen by a majority of the SAB.
The board is comprised of six members, and of them, only four are allowed to vote. This includes representatives from the Commuter Students Association and the Residential Hall Association, an SAB treasurer appointed by the USG Treasurer and the vice president of communications. These four voters are set to represent the votes of the entire campus. In the case of a tie, the vice president of student life is allowed to vote.
When the second survey was released, without the knowledge of these four members, suspicions rose. Oscar Icochea, CSA representative of SAB, said, “Regarding the second survey, members of the SAB who are in charge of deciding artists had no idea the survey had gone out. It was not seen by any of us before it was sent out.”
Guarnero acknowledged that the board was unaware of the survey. He said, “At the time I felt no need to approach SAB members as I wanted to get the survey done before the next meeting so I could have a decent amount of results available when we decided on our backup plans should the Steve Aoki/Kendrick Lamar tour not pass security checks. This matter has been addressed amongst the members of the board and we have decided to increase communication between us.”
The first survey is relatively general. It asks for the student’s year, favorite musical genre, etc. The second survey, however, is much different. It directly refers to the Wiz Khalifa concert, and every follow-up question asks why the surveyor was “Not Satisfied” with the event. The questions seem skewed, and unlike like most SAB administered surveys, it does not ask for the demographic of the student.
Lubitz commented on the surveys in an email and said that, “the initial poll sent out at the end of last semester (besides the survey sent out during the summer) was found that students could vote multiple times. USG corrected this initial poll’s software defect and made a second poll, through Student Activities, where students could vote only once by logging in with their NetID and password. The second survey obtained approximately 1,000 responses from students. The poll was not created to change results.”
While this may be the case, it still leaves the question as to why the two surveys were so radically different, particularly after certain members had stated their disapproval of the artists.
Surveys aside, the ultimate power is in the hands of the University Police Department, as they have the authority to pass or fail an artist for security checks. According to USG members, UPD had used the term “slam dancing” to refer to the “dangerous” activity that may go on during the Aoki/Lamar concert. Chief Robert Lenahan was contacted to clarify the “slam dancing” comment. In an email, he said, “In the case of Steve Aoki, we contacted three schools and all indicated serious concerns with the practice of “slam dancing,” specifically because of the amount of reported physical injuries received by attendees. Injuries sustained at these venues included broken bones and numerous other physical injuries. If he were to perform, all three schools highly recommended having additional medical personnel in attendance.”
After Aoki/Lamar had been rejected, SAB moved on to another list of artists to run through security checks as well. Of them, five had been approved. One Republic, All-American Rejects, J. Cole, Big Sean and Sublime.
Since the initial approval process of these five choices, Big Sean has also been cut.
As for Murray and Athletics, “Once we get the green light from them (UPD), we’re ready to go.”
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