Fall Fest 2014: Not every student wants to see T.I. and Schoolboy Q

Repeatedly choosing rap over other genres showcases the injustice of the activity fee

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The colorful ink flashing from flyers that speckle bulletin boards in the Student Union advertising events, films and open apartments only merit a glance as I’m on the hunt for decent coffee. Endless emails are sent by well-meaning typists and ignored by me in favor of Netflix and a beer.

Maybe I’m alone here, but the countless SA activities thrown in my face on a daily basis rarely catch my attention. Or, I realize that, “Damn, I have work that night” or “There’s no way I’m staying on campus until 9 p.m.”

And yet, $94.75 of the money I make is dumped into SA’s pool each semester along with all the rest of your 94 green George Washingtons and three rounded, silver Washingtons. I had to work approximately eleven hours to pay for the activity fee.

Whether or not you are in a club, whether or not you watch the SA Film Series, whether or not you attend the Distinguished Speakers Series and whether or not you go to concerts like Fall Fest, you are paying.

The Mandatory Student Activity fee imposed on each and every single one of us funds a whole lot of stuff on campus. That money propels every SA club and every SA activity forward. Commanding a roughly $3.6 million dollar budget, our SA e-board funds activities and clubs that they think will please the almost 20,000 undergraduates. Their job is to put each of our activity fees to good use.

So, in a school that touts its diversity and is the size of a small city, why have only three out of the past 10 Fall and Spring Fests not been rap or hip hop? Are the music tastes of all 20,000 undergraduates being represented by this? Are even half the students being represented?

I can’t answer that. All I know is that I am a senior here and have gone to only one concert on campus in my three years of college – last fall, Reel Big Fish. Every semester I hope that the $390,000 the SA can spend on talent for Fall or Spring Fest will go to an artist – or hey, more than two artists and we can really call it a “Fest” – that I am at least somewhat interested in seeing.

Sure, I probably should’ve left my dorm room and went to see Pretty Lights and Waka Flocka when they were at SUNY Binghamton during my freshmen year before I transferred to UB, but I’m not that torn up about it.

I don’t really care if Fall and Spring Fest offer rap for the next ten years.

What I care about it is, why am I paying for it if I’m not going?

There’s got to be a more democratic way to go about all this. If SA wants to serve the student body, then why isn’t the student body voting on who comes to the Fests? Not one of us who pours money into the SA has a say in how exactly they spend our money.

OK, they are the student government and like federal and state government, us citizens don’t get a vote (really) in how our tax money is spent. We can vote for people who we believe will serve our interests but there is absolutely no way to make them do what we want.

Yeah, democracy definitely doesn’t always work too well.

Would it be totally impossible for us to have the choice to pay the activity fee? If we are in clubs, then we should pay for those clubs. If we go to the various lectures, activities and concerts around campus, then we should pay. Granted, by not having everyone pay, SA wouldn’t be able to put on all the things that they organize. Students would have fewer options and maybe they’d be unhappy.

But, how can we know for sure?

How many of us would really be that upset if the SA Film Series was ended, or if a few less speakers came to campus, or if there were a few less funded clubs?

We should be able to pay for what we’re involved in. We shouldn’t have to pay for the rest of it.

Finally, why does SA feel the need to spend over a $100,000 every Fest, on just one or two big name artists rather than getting a few smaller artists of a variety of genres?

According to The Huffington Post, Jefferson Starship is a mere $15-25,000 to book; the Disco Biscuits $10-15,000 The English Beat is $5-10,000; Bayside is $7-10,000 and The Toasters are just $3-5k. Sum 41 at $30-50,000 would be a nice flashback.

Why not spend less money for one artist and get a couple smaller ones – maybe of a few different genres – that a wider variety of students will enjoy?

I fear you may think I’m being too whiny. Maybe you are thinking that I’m lucky to even be in college anyways and am too privileged to really be able to complain about this.

Well, I worked for that nearly $100, as many of you did. Many of us will be paying our student loans well into our 40’s and will be working two and three jobs, in addition to schoolwork, to pay that off.

We have every right to complain. We have every right to demand that SA gives us more than rap music and too many film nights and too many clubs we won’t join.

Ultimately, I want SA to do more for me. Me and you. And you. And you. With a campus that is made up of mostly off-campus students, come to us. Bring us what we want. Host events downtown. Hold more things near South Campus. Change it up.

Make our $94.75 worth something.

email: emma.janicki@ubspectrum.com