Rapper Sean Kingston Cancellation
Prompts Soul-Searching On Campus
By JENNIFER HILL • Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal
ONEONTA – By a 9-5 vote, with one abstention, the SUNY Oneonta Student Associate Senate voted Tuesday, April 23, to do nothing for now on vetting of future OH-Fest headliners.
Instead, it plans to set up a study committee to make recommendations.
Drafted by junior Eric Battista after this year’s OH-Fest concert was suddenly cancelled over gang-rape allegations against Rapper Sean Kingston, the resolution sought to toughen background checks in the future.
“Whereas students of SUNY Oneonta were left in the dark on communications that invited people to the college that conflicted with our values and mission statement,” wrote Battista.
He drafted the resolution after SUNY Oneonta cancelled canceled the concert for the first time in OH-Fest’s 13-year history, the day after a “community dialogue” organized by a Know Violence Committee indicated protest might punctuate the music.
“We did the search on Sean Kingston. Nothing came up on his background search because he was not convicted,” said Senator Arianna Greene. Instead, she suggested creating an “open forum” for students to share information, especially on social media, instead of creating a committee.
Senator Zachary Peterson suggested creating “a Plan B” instead of a committee in case a situation came up again.
Currently, there is an OH-fest committee of students and staff from SUNY Oneont and Hartwick College that oversees the process and input of OH Fest, according to an April 23 e-mail from Karen McGrath, Hartwick’s VP for Enrollment Management & Student Experience.
She said Hartwick “would support that approach for vetting process.”
OH-Fest organizers had conducted a criminal background check of Kingston. But no criminal charges were filed and the case was settled out of court in 2013.
In a Sunday, April 21, letter sent campus-wide, SUNY’s Student Association President Timothy Nolan called it “an extensive background check.”
“We will look into adding moral clauses to future contracts,” he wrote, “and rework the selection process in general to reflect our values as an organization and to give us the ability to allow for full disclosure before booking an act.”
Nolan did not specify “moral clauses” that might be added to future contracts.
SUNY students found out about the 2010 rape allegations against Kingston only 10 days before OH-Fest, when UConn cancelled its concert. That spurred a petition drive calling for Kingston to be disinvited, prompted both colleges to hold meetings on the 18th.
Students identifying themselves as sexual-assault survivors expressed anger and distress. The suggested wearing blue ribbons to Kingston’s concert and walking out when he appeared on stage.
That prompted Mayor Gary Herzig to revoke SUNY Oneonta’s Neahwa Park permit the next morning, and the college then cancelled the concert, saying SUNY’s Dewar Arena could not accommodate such a crowd at short notice.
By contract, Kingston will receive his performance fee of $45,000 even though he did not perform.
The Senate will vote on the resolution at their next meeting on April 29.