USG, CAB issue statements on event
by Suresh Hanubal
Disclaimer: This article’s author is affiliated with the group “studentsagainstsean”, was present at the Apr. 9 meeting between “studentsagainstsean” and Campus Activities Board (CAB), and participated in the Apr. 11 USG RH meeting in which the Sexual Assault allegations against Sean Kingston were raised
At the time of this writing, Apr. 14, 2019, Sean Kingston is scheduled to perform as Fordham University’s Spring Weekend Headliner. However, this may be subject to change.
In 2010, Sean Kingston and two other men allegedly participated in a gang rape following his appearance at a Justin Bieber concert. Carissa Capeloto, aged 19 at the time, claimed that she had 7-10 shots of vodka and had smoked marijuana beforehand and as such was not in a position to consent to sexual relations.
Capeloto attempted to file a report with local police at the time, but her claims were dismissed as “not credible enough”. In addition, Kingston has asserted that Capeloto’s story has been inconsistent and that “the medical report had no indications of force”. Capeloto disputes both of those claims. However, both sides do agree that sexual relations transpired between the two individuals, they just disagree as to whether or not said sexual relations were consensual.
In 2013, Capeloto filed a lawsuit against Kingston and the two other participants in the alleged gang rape. The suit was settled out of court for $5 million.
In the following years, Sean Kingston has been on multiple college tours. Although most of these college performances have gone off without a hitch, three universities have canceled him after their student body’s raised concerns to their respective administrations and CAB equivalents. Western University, located in London, Ontario, canceled Kingston from their Orientation Week Concert in 2013, when the lawsuit was ongoing. Similarly, Seattle University, a Jesuit institution located in Seattle, Washington, canceled him from Quadstock, their Spring Weekend equivalent, in 2017.
On Apr. 11, 2019, The University of Connecticut also canceled Sean Kingston from their Spring Weekend equivalent, known as “UCONNIC.” Kingston’s performance at the school would have been a part of the same college tour that Fordham is a part of. In an email correspondence with The University of Connecticut’s CAB equivalent known as SUBOG, the paper learned that the school decided to cancel the performance after careful consideration of all factors involved after students raised the matter with the schools’ administration.
The allegations against Kingston were brought to the attention of Emily Mueller, FCRH ‘21, from a friend who transferred to Fordham from Seattle University. After hearing about the allegations, Mueller, Emily Andrade, FCRH ‘21, Meg Vanecko, FCRH ‘21, Arden Crawford, FRCH ‘21 and two other womxn who preferred to remain unnamed, sent an email to CAB detailing their concerns about the headliner. This occurred on Mar. 29, 2019.
CAB responded to these concerns and asked the aforementioned complainants, hereon referred to as “studentsagainstsean”, if they would like to meet and discuss the issue further. Studentsagainstsean agreed, and on Apr. 9, 2019, the group met with CAB president Kathryn Teaney, FCRH ‘19, and CAB advisor Francesca Laite. During the hour-long meeting, a number of issues were addressed.
Ms. Mueller first raised a concern relating to the initial Spring Weekend announcement post. She stated that she left a comment on the original Sean Kingston announcement post about the sexual assault allegations raised against them. She alleges that after she did so, comments on the post were disabled. Ms. Teaney stated that it was CAB official policy to disable comments on Spring Weekend announcement posts after an incident that occurred with Timeflies, the Spring Weekend headliner in 2017. However, in conducting research on the matter, the paper discovered that last year’s Spring Weekend announcement post about T-Pain still has comments enabled. Ms. Teaney later clarified that this policy was instituted during her presidency, which began this year.
In response to concerns raised by the group as to how the allegations went unnoticed, Ms. Teaney explained the processes behind the selection and booking of a Spring Weekend performer. CAB begins looking for Spring Weekend performers in May of the year prior. This process continues throughout the summer, with CAB looking for performers who conform with Jesuit values.
They then send out a student survey with options on which artists students would like to see perform at Spring Weekend at the beginning of each year. After this, their agent is contacted to find performers that both fit in with CAB’s price range and that students expressed interest in on the student survey. The agent then performs a background check on each potential performer, ensuring that their past behavior again conforms with Jesuit values.
CAB then conducts its own vetting on each performer. Ms. Teaney explained that this involves running a Google search on each performer’s name followed by the keyword “controversy”. CAB then looks through the first five pages of results, scanning for any posts or articles that would again conflict with the University’s Jesuit mission or cause any student uproar. Apparently, when CAB conducted this search in the fall, no such articles or posts on the alleged sexual assault case showed up. However, when the paper conducted this same search just a couple of days ago the very first link concerned this matter, as did a number of other posts on the first page.
After this, as long as everything seems okay, CAB then extends their offer to the performers, and wait for them to either deny or accept. This year, the initial performers were scheduled to be Soulja Boy, Sean Kingston, and Bryce Vine. However, as is public record, Soulja Boy was canceled after he breached his contract when he was arrested in March. He was then replaced by the artist Whethan.
Speaking about the contract, Ms. Teaney made it clear during the Tuesday meeting that the only way that CAB could cancel Kingston without losing the cost of the performance would be if he breached his contract. Again, the only way in which Kingston breaches his contract is if he faces some form of legal trouble in the interim period between the signing of the contract and the Spring Weekend concert itself. As the allegations are a decade old at this point and he did not face any legal trouble for this matter, Kingston did not breach his contract. As such, even if Kingston is canceled from Spring Weekend, CAB would still have to pay him the agreed-upon price for performing at the University.
CAB did not specify what amount this would be, but the paper reached out to Seattle University’s student newspaper The Spectator, which stated that their school booked Kingston for $25,000 in 2017.
After the Apr. 9 meeting with CAB, “studentsagainstsean” leader Emily Mueller presented her case to the Student Life Council on Apr. 10 and then to United Student Government Rose Hill (USG RH) on Apr. 11. At the Apr. 11 meeting, “studentsagainstsean” presented its case to USG RH. At the end of the meeting, USG RH decided to submit an official statement requesting that “all voices involved in the performer selection process rescind their offer to Kingston to perform at Fordham University on April 27.”
On Wednesday, Apr. 10, the paper submitted a series of questions via email to Ms. Teaney. The first asked whether or not CAB or someone from the University had had a conversation with Kingston about the allegations. Ms. Teaney responded in the negative, stating that “we work through an agent who then would contact his agent.” Ms. Teaney also stated that the “artist approval process as a whole is under review right now.” She further reiterated that Sean Kingston would be a co-headliner with Whethan and not the sole headliner. CAB’s official statement on the matter is as follows:
Though we do take these accusations very seriously and think the questions of any student about them are understandable, after careful consideration, we think it best not to break this contract and remove Sean Kingston from the Spring Weekend lineup. CAB members met individually with a group of concerned students on Tuesday evening, at the Student Life Council on Wednesday, and at the United Student Government meeting on Thursday to hear from additional constituents in order to take all factors into consideration. The accusations from 2013 were settled in civil court, Mr. Kingston was never arrested or prosecuted, and we have no additional information other than tabloid news reports. The contracts were signed in the fall semester and only since then have we learned about his sexual assault allegations. The new information does not affect the validity of our contract with Mr. Kingston and at this time we plan to keep him in the lineup for the concert. As of Friday, CAB and OSI continue to discuss the concerns and are making sure to take all questions into consideration.
Also of note herein, is the three Instagram accounts that have been formed over the past two weeks; @studentsagainstsean, @studentsforsean, and @studentswhoareneutral. @studentsagainstsean was created on Apr. 4 by Ms. Mueller, and since then has served as a major form of advocacy for the #CancelSeanKingston movement. @studentsforsean and @studentsneutralsean were made immediately after the Apr. 11 USG RH meeting. Each expresses a very different opinion on the controversy.
The events relating to this controversy are sure to continue to develop over the next couple of days and weeks.