SA to put $10K per year toward events

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

In one of the most heated debates of the year, the Students’ Association voted to put $10,000 each year toward bringing big-name entertainment acts to Brookings.

Starting in Fiscal Year 2011, SA will put $10,000 each year into the Major Event Fund, a pool of money used to attract major entertainers. The University Program Council will oversee the fund, but the money is not added to the group’s overall budget. SA will reevaluate the fund every three years.

UPC had originally requested that the fund be refilled to $50,000 each year, but the funding ordinance was amended to give $10,000 a year, as several senators expressed concerns about fiscal responsibility.

“I’m not comfortable with the potential for $50,000 a year if we don’t know if we will have (that money) in the future,” said Dani Herring, senator for the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. “With things like these, you have to walk before you can run. We have to see if it is going to work before we pour more and more money into it.”

In the upcoming fiscal year, the fund needed $31,000 to reach the $50,000 mark. Each year, major event profits would go back into the fund, but traditionally, the cost of these events make it difficult to earn revenue. SA would have been responsible for making up the difference between money spent and money earned so that the fund started every academic year at $50,000.

Erik Hanson, senator for the College of Engineering, questioned whether SA could afford $31,000 because from his calculations, SA could not. Finance Chair Ashley Dumke said SA has $30,000 left for next year between the amount of money allocated for student club and organization budgets and the projected student fees SA should receive. SA could tap into its reserves if the student fee money the group gets did not completely cover costs.

Adviser Dan Hansen said SA receives a conservative estimate for the amount of student fees it will receive. He encouraged senators to consider that if by giving the fund only $10,000, they were setting it up for failure.

“You want to set someone up to a position where they can succeed,” Hansen said. “You have to give them enough so they feel they can put on a quality event.”

Supporters of the $50,000 proposal said bringing in a major act is extremely costly, with set-up and hospitality costs and artist fees. The addition of only $10,000 to the fund would limit UPC in the artists it could afford.

“$10,000 will get you nothing. $50,000 will get you nothing,” said Hansen, who served on both SA and UPC as a student. “$50,000 will still put you at a point where you have to co-sponsor.”

Supporters also encouraged senators to look at the money as an investment in students’ campus experience. Senator Eric Haiar, who serves as a UPC coordinator, said people stop in the UPC office weekly asking why the group does not host bigger acts. Senator Maria Tracy agreed that students want these larger acts, and so SA should work to provide them, she said.

“It’s not a revenue-making process,” said Tracy. “It’s just to provide that experience for students on campus that so many students want and desire.”

Several senators who supported the reduced allocation said UPC could still provide major concerts with an additional $10,000 a year as long as the group works with community partners. They said UPC could work with the Swiftel Center, and they could seek funding from the Third B tax fund, which was established in 2005 to help bring entertainment to Brookings.

“They should still be able to throw big concerts without having us put ourselves in such a dangerous position,” said Patrick Weber, senator for the Graduate School.

Supporters of the $50,000 proposal said UPC would have to partner with someone else whether they got $10,000 or $31,000.

Apart from the amendment to $10,000 each year, the ordinance was amended two other times, once to add $31,000 to the fund in FY11 and $10,000 thereafter and another time to add $21,000 initially and $10,000 thereafter. Both amendments failed.

In terms of historical context, a fund for major concerts was created in 1989 with $100,000. Funds in that account have depleted to present-day $19,000, and the account has not been touched in several years, said Stephanie Cooper, president of UPC.

Cooper said big-name acts are always popular when UPC can host them, such as the sold-out Augustana concert last spring. She said UPC would like to be able to bring in one or two major concerts or comedians a year and to give student discounted tickets to these events.

“Bringing major events can really add to students’ university experience,” she said.

UPC hosts about 60 events a year at a cost of about $13 per student through student fees, Cooper said. Especially as attendance is growing, the group does not want to sacrifice too many of those events for one major act since the events are selected for a wide range of students.

“We have such a diverse student population on campus. What appeals to one student may not to another student,” she said. “We explore different avenues in hopes that we appeal to all students at one time or another.”

During the March 1 SA meeting, Cooper said she still supported the original request but would accept the amendment.

“We are in support of the amendment in comparison to nothing,” she said.