Given 2010 Gang-Rape Allegations,
Ought Sean Kingston Be Disinvited?
By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – After learning last week that the OH-Fest headliner, rapper Sean Kingston, and his bodyguard were accused of gang rape in 2010, SUNY Oneonta students and staff – some said they were sexual assault survivors – met this evening in the college’s Center for Multicultural Experiences to discuss whether to push for canceling Kingston’s performance.
Leaders of the college’s Know Violence Committee – its stated goal it to educate the campus on “issues of sexual assault and relationship violence” – organized the “Open Community Dialogue” meeting after word of the allegations against Kingston spread.
About 60 people attended, many of them voicing opposition to allowing Kingston to perform and anger at “the lack of response” from SUNY Oneonta administrators, who have not yet issued a statement about the controversy.
“Survivors feel personally attacked,” Malena Denise, one of the Dialogue’s moderators, said. “And the institution is being passive about it.”
She pointed out that three colleges had canceled planned performances by Kingston when learning of the gang rape allegations.
(It appears Western University in London, Ont., canceled a performance in 2013, and the University of Connecticut did so last week. Protests are ongoing at Fordham University, but reports have it that no decision had been made as of tonight.)
SUNY Oneonta students in the opening band for Kingston at OH-Fest, Midnight Cartunes, participated in the meeting, saying they planned to use their performance this weekend “as a platform for having awareness” of sexual violence.
“We have a few plans for talking about the whole issue,” band member Lacie Roves said. “We’re going to have a moment of silence, have a survivor speak, and then suggest everyone to leave when Kingston comes out on stage.”
“We’re willing to collaborate on doing a whole set on survivors and speaking out against violence,” said Geoffrey Rosenthal, who plays tenor saxophone in Midnight Cartunes.
Other speakers objected to Kingston’s appearance.
“Letting him perform empowers him. We don’t need to give anyone more of a voice than they already have,” sophomore Sophia MOnslave said.
Rebecca Harrington, who works in the college’s Office of Health Education and chairs Know Violence, encouraged students to not boycott OH-Fest and instead use it to effect change.
“Canceling things could end up sweeping it under the carpet,” she said. “You will affect students across the SUNY system and change SUNY’s policy toward survivors if you lead the campaign to change it.”
Harrington also said she thought administrators had not yet made a statement because they “were not able to respond in the time and at the level they wanted to.”
“I see inklings everywhere on campus that people really do care here,” she added.
Also attending were members of the Student Association’s Activities Council, 10 students who, acting on a college-wide vote picking him as the headliner, arranged his OH-Fest performance.
“Sean Kingston is legally innocent, but it’s harmful to the school’s image to not address allegations,” said one member who did not want to give his name. After the meeting, he said the Activities Council would meet to decide what to do next.
Another issue: If Kingston is “disinvited” from performing on Saturday, the college will still have to pay his $60,000 fee.
Students at the meeting said Hartwick College administrators had sent out an email to students addressing the Kingston controversy. But some said the email’s focus on drug and alcohol consumption at OH-Fest sent harmful a message to survivors.
After Kingston’s accuser filed a $5 million lawsuit against him, he reached a settlement with her in 2013, according to an Aug. 31, 2013 TMZ article.