Amid budget troubles, Boise State finds $55,000 to bring in rapper for 'free' concert
Despite waning state support for higher education during the past few years, Boise State University (BSU) found a way spend at least $55,000 to bring rapper Lupe Fiasco to perform at the Taco Bell arena Saturday for the school’s 37th annual “Spring Fling.”
According to documents obtained by IdahoReporter.com, the performance was funded by student fees, which every student pays as part of the total bill for attending the school.
Officials defended the pricy performance, saying that it was a good way for students to relax after long semesters of difficult studies.
It appears that the school may look to partner with the private sector next year as a way to defray costs and generate additional interest in the event, which is put on by the Student Programs Board.
While Fiasco’s performance fee was $55,000 for the show, his contract with the school also includes an extensive list of goodies, treats, and amenities the performer and his crew wanted in the dressing room. The list includes Starburst, beef jerky, Golden Oreos, Captain Crunch, Red Bull, Lay’s potato chips, and fresh-cut flowers, among a host of other items. The school also provided a catered meal, a town car, and a 15-passenger van for Fiasco and his band.
Sami Johnson, director of the Student Programs Board at the school, said there was no profit made at the event, but noted that wasn’t the point. “Student Programs Board did not generate any profits from the event, nor did we intend to,” said Johnson. “The event is funded by student fees and is intended to provide free entertainment for the student population.”
But the event wasn’t technically free. While admission to Taco Bell arena was not charged, students attending school in the fall and spring footed the bill, even if they didn’t attend. Students are charged a $6 fee to fund the board each time they pay tuition. With only about 5,000 people attending the event – including non-student community members – it appears that many of Boise State’s 20,000 students paid for a concert they didn’t want to attend.
The board partnered with 103.3 KISS FM, a Boise radio station to promote the event. The radio station, however, provided no financial support to help pay the performer’s fee.
Johnson said that there was no discussion about working with entities from the private sector to share the cost of the performance, but indicated that would be part of the conversation next year. “After conversations with radio groups and the arena, the possibility of a partnership is open for next year's event,” she said. “Moving forward, in order to book in-demand artists we will explore ways to minimize the artist's performance fee.”
Brandie Vanorder, president of the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU), defended the cost to bring the performer to town. “Despite financial strains, I absolutely support the decision to pay to bring rapper Lupe Fiasco to Boise State for a free concert,” said Vanorder. “All things considered, I think this is the type of event that gets students excited to be a part of Boise State, and it's perfect timing to de-stress and take a break between dead week and finals.”
Dead week is the week prior to finals in which students are finishing regular course work before taking course-end exams. Finals for students begin Monday and school ends Friday. Graduation for BSU is Saturday.
The performance comes about two weeks after BSU’s request for a 5 percent tuition and fee increase was approved by the Idaho State Board of Education. BSU has more than doubled tuition in the last decade. In 2001, students paid $2,450 per year for tuition and fees. In 2011, that cost has jumped to $5,566 a year.