St. Thomas has yet to reveal the act for its annual spring concert, but the artist booked for a similar event at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict won’t be performing.
Just days after announcing rapper Sammy Adams as the act for 13 Pines or Pinestock, the two universities’ annual spring concert, the Joint Events Council and CSB/SJU’s administrators released a written statement canceling the event.
“The Joint Events Council expresses our sincerest apologies for failing to realize the potential negative impact of signing an artist whose works do not represent our Catholic, Benedictine values,” the document read. “In the search to bring a dynamic, high-energy and known musician to campus, the Joint Events Council overlooked the exploitive and negative content of Sammy Adams’ music.”
Once news of the cancellation got out, some students from the schools took to social media to express frustration. St. John’s senior Shane Schiavo and St. Ben’s senior Lisa Weather created the quickly-trending Twitter hashtags #freestjoe and #freecsbsju. St. John’s senior Kevin Wenner started a Facebook page shortly after, which sports the same name.
“I think the Sammy Adams concert was just the tipping point for all of us,” Wenner said. “That is why more than 1,000 people joined this Facebook page in less than three days.”
Twitter users like “Lisa Ann Weathers” got involved in the viral dialogue.
Last week when news broke, @LisaFranziaAnn tweeted, “For once I would like @CSBSJU to act as a Liberal Arts school and to acknowledge the opinion of students…#BringBackSammyAdams #FreeStJoe.”
St. John’s Dean of Students Mike Connolly said the schools canceled the concert because Adams’ lyrics directly contradicted the university’s goals.
“St. Ben’s and St. John’s strive to educate students to understand appropriate boundaries, especially with regard to alcohol and consensual sex,” Connolly said. “Adams’ music is in direct conflict with these educational goals.”
St. Thomas Dean of Students Karen Lange said that St. Thomas also censors what kinds of artists they choose to have at events.
“We’re always thinking about our mission, as I’m sure they are, in the decisions that they are making,” Lange said. “We certainly will make sure that their (the artists’) music is in line with our mission. It’s certainly something that we consider also.”
Wenner said administrators decided the lyrics were “blatantly sexist and encourage binge drinking,” only after shelling out money for the concert.
“On top of that, the school had already paid him $33,000 to perform at our school and some students and already bought tickets,” Wenner said.
According to The Record, the St. John’s and St. Ben’s news publication, The JEC declined to comment on the actual amount it costed to book Adams. It could be anywhere between $25,000 to $37,000.
This fall, assistant director of Campus Life Jese Ledbetter told TommieMedia that STAR abides by a St. Thomas purchasing amendment that restricts different organizations as to what it can purchase, including artists performing on campus.
“In there, it does talk about subject matter in terms of language and derogatory terms,” Ledbetter said. “That kind of gets into lyrics and what they are portraying in their lyrics.”
While Wenner admitted that Adams’ lyrics are not “saintly,” he said the cancellation was not necessary.
“Lyrics are just lyrics,” Wenner said. “We are all adults here and are very aware of what his lyrics are. As college students, we are all smart enough to realize what they mean and not to follow them. If we are offended by them, we can simply just not go to the concert. Instead, administration took away the opportunity to enjoy his music from everyone.”
St. Thomas freshman Rocco Scundi said he understands where the CSB/SJU administrators are coming from but can also see why students are upset.
“I feel that if the school thinks that his concert is promoting actions that the school doesn’t approve of, then it’s reasonable to not have him perform,” Scundi said. “However … those actions take place in colleges whether or not there is someone like Sammy Adams performing.”
St. Ben’s sophomore Tayler Huston said the fact that Sammy Adams had already been paid to perform is the most upsetting part of the situation.
“The only big complaint that I have with this one is that we had already paid him the $30,000 to perform,” Huston said. “And as a college student, I hate to see our tuition money go to waste like that.”
Weather said students are working to plan an alternative way to hold the concert since students already paid for the original show.
Wenner said that the popularity of the Facebook page and Twitter got the attention of Sammy Adams. The artist’s official account retweeted several students using the popular hashtags and encouraged students to attend a newly scheduled show in Minneapolis.
“For all my homies and ladies who can’t see me at their college … we just booked 4/13 in MINNEAPOLIS for y’all LETS GO,” Adams tweeted.
In addition to the administration’s cancellation of the spring concert, the city of St. Joseph, Minn., home to St. Ben’s, implemented three new ordinances. The new ordinances require keg registration, penalize “disruptive intoxication” and establish the “social host” law.
Wenner said the combination of the ordinances and the cancellation have motivated St. John’s and St. Ben’s students to plan an April 27 protest throughout the St. Joseph area.
Regardless of the concert cancellation and new ordinances, Wenner said the protest will enhance the student body’s community.
“The Sammy Adams concert was going to be a chance for our school to come together and enjoy a great concert,” Wenner said. “Now, the community is coming together to protest.”
Heidi Enninga contributed to this report.
Kayla Bengtson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.