CAB concert sparks controversy



Rap artist Waka Flocka Flame will be performing in the Maucker Union Ballroom on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m.

SYDNEY HAUER, Executive Editor | [email protected]

An inability to be transparent led some UNI student groups to believe the University administration was exhibiting racial bias. 

It started when the UNI Campus Activities Board (CAB)’s Waka Flocka Flame concert was moved to Nielsen Field House. While it has since been moved back to Maucker Union, it remains closed to the public due to perceived security threats. Public tickets already sold have been reimbursed.

Student tickets had been reduced to one per student, but now students can purchase two tickets. Students who purchase a ticket for a guest must accompany them to the concert.

The event will take place at 8 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 16.

According to UNI President Mark Nook, after the concert was initially announced, the administration and surrounding police departments were notified by UNI Public Safety of a significant safety threat and told to keep the information confidential, which led the administration to make the changes in the way that they did.

“Some area law enforcement got some pretty solid evidence that gang members from different groups in our community were planning to attend the event and it raised a significant safety concern,” said Nook. “We have a responsibility as administrative leadership to our students to make sure that the events are safe, and when a concern of this nature comes to us, we have to take that really seriously and act to make sure that this event is safe.”

Before any of the information was made public, many students speculated that racial bias was involved in the University’s decision making and that the administration was intentionally keeping students in the dark about why the decisions were being made.

According to Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) Senators Ryan Frank and Mahlia Brown, NISG as a whole first caught wind of the changes made to the concert at their regular Senate meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 6. It was initially brought to the attention of Frank and Brown individually that previous Monday.

NISG called for an emergency Senate meeting the next day, in which Brown wrote and proposed a solution for the University to consider, she said. NISG voted on it unanimously. The proposal involved the concert being moved back to Maucker Union and ticket sales being reopened to the public.

Sashay Carroll, a junior communication major and member of Black Student Union (BSU) said that students in the Center for Multicultural Education found out about the changes when a student had mentioned them in conversation.

“There were a few of us here in the CME talking and someone mentioned that the Waka Flocka concert had actually been moved and closed off to the public,” said Carroll. “We all got together and started organizing, asking all the right questions, trying to figure out what exactly led up to this decision and who initially made the decision.”

The students who organized in the CME decided to contact KWWL to release a public statement about what was happening “so that the community could be aware of it,” according to Carroll. She was a student who was interviewed.

“I told them I felt as if the institution was trying to keep a group of people out and it’s imperative that we pay attention to who is being kept out,” Carroll said.

Carroll said that initially when these changes were made, she took it personally as a black student. It caused her to become stressed physically, mentally and emotionally.

“I’m taking a different view now, but I was taking it personally and I was very stressed out about it. The fact that I’ve been putting thousands of dollars into this university and to be here and to not feel like my voice is being heard or not even considered.”

In response to the students calling KWWL, according to Carroll, the University also called KWWL and released their own statement, which included that the Campus Activities Board (CAB) had requested the changes, even though CAB was uninvolved.

According to Co-Executive’s for CAB Live Isaiah Finan and Mackenzie Meisenheimer, they were first notified of the increase in security back in January, that six public safety officers were requested by the University to be at the event instead of the usual two. They expressed concern about how having the additional security there might appear to black students.

They emphasized that Waka Flocka Flame’s contract involves its own security precautions, which involve wanded metal detection in addition to security officers.

CAB was notified of the venue change on Monday, Feb. 4, and instructed to staple white slips of paper with the new information on the bottom of the posters.

“All of these were not requests; they were not decisions; they were, this is happening,” said Meisenheimer.

According to Frank, when some students asked the administration why these decisions were being made, CAB was initially blamed by the executive team.

“That was our biggest fear with all this happening and not having a say was that CAB would get the blame when we, unknowing, never wanted any of these changes to occur,” Meisenheimer said. “It was a whole new level of frustration because we had had one meeting prior to all this because we had requested that our voice was being heard because it was our event, and in this meeting we were told students would have a voice and to trust the administration because they would be there for us if we had backlash and they would make sure that people knew the decision was not ours.”

According to Finan and Meisenheimer, the senior executive team did not inquire about the budget for the concert and how the loss of public ticket sales would affect their budget before going forward with decisions.

“I think another thing that the university hasn’t considered is the huge financial burden and the impact of the concert itself,” said Finan. “We haven’t been able to publicize as much because all these decisions keep getting thrown around, and if public tickets are officially off the table, we’re out thousands of dollars.”

The public tickets that had already been sold accounted for $2,200, according to Finan.

When CAB was approached by students regarding the issue, according to Meisenheimer, they were instructed to direct students to University Relations.

President Nook expressed that having to keep it quiet resulted in a lack of transparency and communication and that one of his greatest concerns was that students would perceive their decision making as racially biased since they were not allowed to share explicit details right away.

“One of the things that many of us realized was that if we were going to say no to this because of what we were hearing, we would never be able to host a concert that involved a hip-hop artist or a rap artist, and in essence, we were going to be denying the culture of black students on our campus and taking away the kinds of entertainment opportunities that were important to them,” Nook said. “And that just isn’t appropriate to even think about. That’s a level of institutional racism that we have to avoid, and so finding a way to allow the concert to proceed and ensure a level of safety for our students that would attend and to people in and around the region was sort of the primary motive here.”

Nook said that he wanted to make sure that students know that CAB was not a part of the decision making and that all of the decisions regarding changes to the concert were made by University leadership.

“I want to apologize for CAB, one, because I know they took some flack from students who thought they were making these shifts when it wasn’t CAB,” Nook said. “It really wasn’t, and we weren’t able to talk about it much. I also want to really apologize to all of our students, because we weren’t able to be as open and as transparent as I want to be.”

According to Nook, University leadership intends to involve members of pertinent student organizations in future decision making.

“I would like to think in the future that we would be able to bring in at least a member from the CAB board into that discussion, and if it is possible to identify a student group, in particular, that has a vested interest in the event, that we can bring them in and let them know that we have to have a confidential conversation and that we need to keep this confidential, but we need your input on sort of what these things are like. I think that’s going to be as we move forward really important part of how we make these decisions.”

Carroll said she believes the University is “being proactive in addressing the issue.”

“They’ve been having meetings constantly,” she said. “The biggest piece is that the executive team knows that they’ve made mistakes in all of this, which I can appreciate them admitting that.”

According to Carroll and Brown, a group of students of color and their allies is organizing a town hall to address issues of racial bias on campus, and to give students of color an opportunity to speak out about things they would like to see changed.

“The black students have really rallied together and I think in this found a sense of community that’s been greater than what’s been experienced in the past, so even though it’s a really hard and tough situation, it has led us to come together because we know that the University needs to make some changes,” Carroll said. “It’s not even about the Waka Flocka concert. That’s just one piece of a bigger puzzle that needs to be worked on and I think that as students we were kind of complacent with things being the way they were, and this kind of drew attention to the fact that things need to change on this campus.”