Amid budget troubles, Boise State finds $55,000 to bring in rapper for 'free' concert


Gov. Butch Otter receivied a firsthand look at a natural gas well last week from representatives of Alta Mesa energy company.

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.

Note: Photo provided by RodolfoClix.

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22 Comments

  1. ReggieH

    Student fees going toward a student activity? The horror! Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children!!!

  2. Committee Against Fake News Organizations

    “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.”

    And many Boise State students also pay for classes they don’t want to take. Taxpayers pay for lots of stuff taxpayers don’t want to pay for.

    Enough with the insinuating — we all know this isn’t actual news. So what is the IFF editorial point you want to make? Concerts for students are a waste of money? Rap is bad? What?

  3. Lu

    This story is idiodic. Of course a portion of student fees are being spent on student events. Where’s the sorty in that?

    Would you have made such a big of a deal out of this concert if they would have brought an artist like Toby Keith? I doubt it.

  4. Ebsc

    I went to that. Worth every penny. It looked like more that 5000 people… huh, maybe more students should have taken advantage of it eh? I’m glad that SPB is doing its best to appeal to the students that aren’t over the age of 30. “I’m from a city called boise best city in the whole wide wide world”.

  5. Brian

    Having run student events at Idaho State back in the 90s, I can vouch for this reporter’s utter cluelessness. Student’s each pay a whopping $6 each semester for student events, and he’s trying to compare this to tuition hikes and budget crunches? Bringing in performers, especially popular and relevant ones like Lupe Fiasco, is expensive, and all the extras the reporter mentions are also pretty standard (not the particulars, but the basic concept). Would the reporter rather BSU bring in performers nobody’s heard of, making attendance astronomically low? He also knocks KISS 103 for not footing part of the bill . . . they gave the school FREE publicity for the event! Publicity and promotion isn’t normally free. Sheesh.

  6. BSU alumna

    Unless things have changed significantly since I was at Boise State, these are student fees and the Student Programs Board is made up of students who decide what type of programs to provide. This is not state money appropriated by the legislature for higher education. These are student fees and students who make the decisions. This is but one event. Others include movies, comedians, dances, etc. Mr. Hurst, I usually think your articles are relatively balanced considering this is a Freedom Foundation publication. However, this story is completely off base.

    1. Dustin Hurst

      I thank you for your comments. This isn’t about the SPB wasting Idaho state taxpayers dollars; it’s about a deeper issue in which students are being forced to pay for something they may not want to attend. From the looks of it, most students did not want to go to the event, yet they were forced to pay for it.

      I know it’s only $6 per semester, but those things add up. I guess the question that should be considered is if it is proper in this economic climate for this student government – and that’s what it is – should be spending on this. Some people feel it is worthwhile, while others do not.

      By the way, for those who think I am targeting Lupe Fiasco simply because he is a rapper or black, you are way off base. I am actually a fan of his music.

  7. Corbin Corvus

    This strange article, and Mr. Hurst’s rebuttal, just goes to show the Idaho Reporter and IFF point of view–there is no “common good” or shared responsibility. Should anyone be expected to contribute to something that they do not immediately use? Is there any validity to the statement “we’re all in this together.”

    I think one should tread carefully down that path–it leads to anarchy.

  8. Tommy

    I’m glad to see education money finally put to good use. I’ve decided to cash in my kids college funds, sell my Coeur d’Alene summer house, empty my savings and send it all to those schools who are struggling to keep afloat and screaming for more of my dollars through property tax levy’s(levies) because they can’t afford to operate without it. My heart is saddened by the pleas of the abused educators and students.

  9. Muggsy Bogues

    I was going to comment on how ridiculous this article was (“Did you ever go to college? Almost EVERY big college in the country does this,” etc.) but I’m happy to see that everybody else saw through the absurdity of it! Another swingannamiss eh, Dustin?

    1. Dustin Hurst

      Nope. Not at all. The point of the article was to bring government spending into the public eye – yes, this counts because student fees are not optional – and that objective was definitely achieved.

      I think the “everybody does it, so it’s OK” argument is very poor.

      Thanks for your comments.

  10. Muggsy Bogues

    You’re right! That argument IS poor! However, it wasn’t my argument. I don’t justify the practice by saying other colleges do it, I justify the practice by saying Boise State does it and nobody seems to care. It’s $6, Dustin. I’d bet that most students would be willing to spend $6 for a chance to see a great show for free. The kids that didn’t go see Lupe? Maybe they’re not into rap. But they’ll go when somebody up their alley comes another year. $32 over four years is STILL less than most big-name concert tickets.

    But I could be wrong! Maybe the whole student body is outraged! I tell you what Dustin, go do a poll of the student body and if the majority says they are absolutely outraged about it all, then I will congratulate you on bringing this very important issue to the public eye.

    At least then you can pat yourself on the back for reporting a story every freshman journalism student unsuccessfully pitches to his college paper.

  11. BSU alumna

    When did the Idaho Reporter become a college newspaper?
    If students of Boise State don’t know where their fees go, then they should pay attention. Student fees go to a number of things…entertainment, recreation, facilities, student activities, volunteer programs, student clubs & organizations. It is fair to say that no student participates in all of the activities paid for by their fees. When I went to Boise State, I didn’t attend the events organized for students with families, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they should have happened. Just because I didn’t attend a concert, that doesn’t indicate I was opposed to it. If students believe their fees are not being used appropriately, they have multiple ways to provide input…elections, fee hearings, committee participation, student government, student programs board, etc. These activities are organized by students. It’s not like Bob Kustra just decided it would be good to have a free student concert and spent university funds to do it.

  12. BSU students studying for finals

    As a extremely active Boise State Students for the past 4 years, this is one of the saddest articles that we have read. The Student Programs Board has been around for over 30 years here on the Boise State Campus. They have always had the same mission “SPB shall be responsible for implementing a series of events that will: challenge beliefs; encourage the individual; educate others; inspire action; and entertain the soul, all the while creating a sense of community and University pride.” We don’t think you understand how hard they always try to get the 20,000 students at Boise State to go out to their events and use up the $6 in tuition they were “forced” to pay for. It is impossible to always satisfy the likes of everyone on campus. SPB has never forgotten about the students. We don’t mean to send a low blow to other departments on campus, but we think that trying to make SPB look bad for using the $6 per student to bring a concert where EVERY SINGLE ONE of those 20,000 students could have attended for free is not the most constructive way to be going if you are trying to point out unnecessary spending. Like a couple of previous comments state, “Did you ever go to college? Almost EVERY big college in the country does this,”… but you know that most of those colleges charge the students to attend those events that are being put on by money they already paid for?….

    Just to repeat some of the previous comments above, “And many Boise State students also pay for classes they don’t want to take. Taxpayers pay for lots of stuff taxpayers don’t want to pay for.” SPB only tries to make the best of those $6 per student and to let every student on campus know that everything they do is free for them since they technically already paid for it. This is one of the other reasons why Spring Fling has been on campus for the last two years, to bring it back to the Boise State students.

    Another thing is, we are involved students and we heard you went around asking loaded questions to people who were not involved with SPB. The information you talked about in your article about:

    “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”…

    is not accurate at all. Those are called “hospitality riders” and are only suggested items that artists would like to have. Unless you were able to look at the final agreements, which you can’t because that information is highly private with any performer that you may encounter, you are publishing information based off of rumors and false information in order to back up the point you would like to prove.

    We would just like to thank everyone who is and has always supported SPB and other student organizations on campus who use student fees in ways that are returned back to the students that paid for those fees.

  13. ReggieH

    Everyone keeps throwing out the $6 number, but that’s innaccurate. $6 is what each student pays for the entire SBP budget. The Lupe Fiasco concert was only $55,000. Therefore, the actual cost to each student for the Lupe Fiasco concert was $2.75. Good thing Dustin wrote this article to point out this massive waste and fraud!

    Strange how this article seems to go hand-in-hand with the many other anti-education articles we’ve seen from Idaho Reporter in the last few months. Strange. . .

  14. BSU students studying for finals

    One last point to state… just shy of 6000 people attended the event, I might be wrong, but other than football games and graduation, that is one of the only other Boise State events that has had that many people attend…

  15. LJ

    This is just another example of people thinking they want to run other people’s lives, make their choices and turn us all into
    little clones of the radical right wing.

  16. Greg Palin

    As a BSU Alum married to another BSU Alum, I must reply to this article. For complete disclosure, my son is a current student at BSU and just happens to be on the Student Programs Board. He was, of course, very involved in helping to organize this concert.

    I love Boise, Boise State University and the State of Idaho. I visit every chance I get and I support the University to the extent that I am able. I didn’t settle there, however, because of the type of prevailing narrow mindedness expressed in this article. I must agree with one of the comments above. This type of poor quality, hit & run, uninformed “journalism” would not have reared it’s ugly head if this had been a cowboy band instead of a popular rap artist. Linking budget troubles with student fee supported events is patently disingenuous. The two are not connected. Education costs have risen exponentially when compared with general price inflation in the economy. That is where the focus regarding “Budgetary Problems” should be focused. There is a structural problem in the education system in this country and costs have not gone through the roof because of student fee supported events. Wake up.

    In closing, I will admit, proudly, that I am part of the right wing but I don’t consider myself radical….more pragmatic actually. Greg Palin, Tacoma, WA

  17. David

    Truly a nitpicky, asinine story. Please stop looking for trouble where there isn’t any. No love for rappers, that’s not the point. With state support draining away, it’s nobody’s business unless they’re directly involved in the school. Go Broncos! Class of ’74. Other than that, I support your political efforts. This ain’t politics, it’s snarkyism. Look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls. You’ve not made any friends with this one.

  18. Critical Critic

    The basic questions are:

    [1] Is this is a good use of student fees? If, yes, then explain how it is a good use.
    [2] If no student fees were collected for student entertainment, what negative circumstances, if any, would result?

    ReggieH – I would like to read your reply to these two questions.

  19. I heart student debt

    This is a great article. Student governments, along with higher education in general, deserve the scrutiny for their misguided Noblesse Oblige. Student costs/debt is spinning out of control, and the Student Programs Board says, “Let them attend free concerts.”

  20. CMartel2

    Nothing says, “I’m college-educated and ready for the workforce,” quite like Lupe Fiasco. *rolls eyes*

    I wish student fees would be used for something that actually resembled music instead of:

    ” them tight situations like Speedos
    You can have it your way like Carlito
    My ni##as will be happy to give y’all torpedoes
    And have your car twisted like a blunt
    For you fa##ot-a$$ ni##as that like to front”

    Complete and absolute brainrot.

    Let the student fees be used as students please, but please, student, grow up and get some class. Ahhhh, the voice of a generation.

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