Appeasing the masses: USG aims to meet students’ musical tastes


(Left to right) Comedian Kevin Hart, singer Kesha and rapper Wiz Khalifa perform in the M.A.C. Center on Dec. 6, 2014; Sept. 30, 2016; and April 21, 2016, respectively.

Madeline Crandall

This year’s FlashFest artist selections have sparked negative reactions among students. The Undergraduate Student Government, the organization in charge of bringing acts to campus for the entertainment of students, chose rapping duo Rae Sremmurd to headline the annual concert — two years after their last FlashFest appearance.

Other FlashFest performers for Thursday include several Kent State students who will perform as part of the free portion of the concert outside on the Student Green.

USG’s director of programming is responsible for planning and coordinating five shows a year for the student body. Shows can include any type of guest speaker, comedian or musical performance. So far this academic year, USG featured a joint show with Kesha and PARTYNEXTDOOR, a concert from The 1975 and a TEDx conference.

Clifford Glowacki, a senior theatre studies major and current director of programming, said USG represents the student body well, and that he is “very proud of the work USG has done this year.”

“I believe that USG fully empowers the student voice and is one of the most effective avenues for students to let their voices be heard,” Glowacki said. “We have been able to bring numerous student concerns to light and help influence real change around campus this year.” 

Elections for next year’s USG positions saw a low turnout, with only 6 percent of the student body voting.

Julia Stoll, a sophomore business management major, said she voted in this year’s USG elections.

“I think (USG) should get their name out and advertise more,” she said. “They should send out more emails to the student body, surveying them so they can get involved in decisions too.”

Bradley Banks, a junior exercise science major, won the election over junior fashion merchandising major Emonte Wimbush. The complete board of programming contains six people, including the director.

“I’ve noticed through being around USG and running all the concerts over the last three years that not enough students know about it and it’s an organization based around student opinion and desires,” Banks said. “I want to be the connector of the two so everyone can be heard.”

Mazzi Drinkwater, a sophomore psychology major, had no name recognition at all of USG. Her interests include music and she explained that she desires a more diverse set of names Kent. 

“I would like to see events here being made more affordable with more diverse music. It seems that all of the choices are either really big, basic names or it’s rap and hip-hop,” Drinkwater said. “There’s so much more music out there that people enjoy.”

Over the last few years, big names like Wiz Khalifa, Future, Kid Ink, Jeremih, PARTYNEXTDOOR and now two stints from Rae Sremmurd were selected to perform. Other genres were sprinkled in, including country with Hunter Hayes, alternative rock with The 1975 and pop with Kesha.

High-profile comedians also graced the M.A.C. Center in recent years, including Kevin Hart and Amy Schumer.

Banks said he wants to better USG altogether with his position. His goals are to end the skepticism about USG and draw the negative opinions away by including more transparency and inclusion throughout the student body. He also has his own vision for a leadership guest speaker event.

“I kind of want to do something along the lines of a leadership speaker. In the past we had Stephen A. Smith, a columnist for ESPN,” Banks said. “He came and did a really cool leadership talk to the campus. I also have a huge love for music, so I’m excited to put that into play.”

Glowacki said he is confident Banks will fill the director of programming title well next semester.

“I have been talking to (Banks) quite a bit both before the election and since. I would say that the key (to) success is empowering the people around you to do great things and they will do the same for you,” Glowacki said. “USG is a highly collaborative organization and together, USG will represent and empower student voices.”

The board is in charge of choosing an artist that best hears student preferences. The director of programming collaborates with the board to book performers.

“Kent isn’t a dictatorship,” Banks said. “Students’ voices play a huge role and if we bring someone that most of the students don’t like, then it defeats the whole purpose. I think we should try for a goal to not make a profit off of the students, but to ensure their happiness and their appreciation of the artist that we bring.”

Paige Kuder, a sophomore criminology and justice studies major, was also not familiar with USG. She believes a poll via social media or submission form could be the best way to strengthen student voices within USG.

“I know that me and my friends would answer to a poll on Twitter asking what performers we want to play at Kent,” Kuder said. “Most students wouldn’t just scroll past it because it definitely involves them and is easy to do.”

USG did try a Twitter poll earlier this semester, asking students to vote between a few comedians to host on campus, although no comedy show came out of it. The tweet has since been deleted.

Banks explained that his actions were going to be mostly social media-based to reach the biggest platform of students. Twitter polls, open forums and video montages were some of his ideas to get students interested and involved in decision making.

Face-to-face communication will also be available during Banks’ required office hours.

“I truly believe that Twitter polls are one of the best ways to hear what students want,” Banks said. “I would definitely appreciate and promote students to come into my office hours and tell me their opinions with myself and the board members.”

Angela Nichols, a senior geology major, was unaware that students have input in performer selections.

“I didn’t even know that students had the chance to express who they want to come and play at Kent. I’m sure if more people knew about it then they would show interest because everyone loves music,” Nichols said. “USG just has to work on communicating with as many students as they can to book (artists) who people want.”

Banks further explained that his love for music was one of the big reasons he wanted to win the director of programming position. He expressed enthusiasm, looking forward to what his candidacy brings.

“I think music is something that can make anybody happy. Everyone has their favorite tune or melody they like to listen to, whether it be rap, hip-hop, country or EDM,” he said. “Whatever they’re doing during the day, music can make that person more happy, and if I can have the opportunity to be able to make a whole campus happy, I would love to be able to make that happen.”

Madeline Crandall is an entertainment reporter, contact her at [email protected]